DATU SAUDI AMPATUAN: Thousands of civilians fled their communities in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao early Friday after heavily armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were sighted in the village of Kitango, an Army official said.
Capt. Joann Petinglay, 6th ID spokesperson, said elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion are now engaged in a running gunbattle with BIFF forces, led by a certain Commander Kadafi in Barangay Maytumaig, Datu Saudi Unsay.
Portions of the highway between Crossing Salbo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan to the town hall of Datu Unsay town, were closed.
The firefight started at 9:30 a.m. in Sitio Kuwari, Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.
“There was massive evacuation of civilians,” Petinglay said adding that before the encounter between Army and the BIFF, thousands of civlians have already evacuated anticipating armed skirmishes.
Heavy fighting is taking place between the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Unsay Ampatuan, specifically near the road.
The road from Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat until Shariff Aguak town, both in Maguindanao, have been closed to traffic as Army and BIFF are poised to engage in shooting war, a commuter told Radyo Bida Koronadal.
Armored personnel carriers and artillery have been positioned beside the highway as the clash site was only a few kilometers away from the road network.
Petinglay said elements of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, backed by armored personnel carrier, have been deployed along the highway between Talayan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, both in Maguindanao.
She could not say how many families have evacuated.
She said the civilians first reported to the Army that they noticed heavily armed BIFF in their communities and anticipating harassment or Army-BIFF encounter.
“The highway, portion of the Cotabato-Isulan highway, has been close to ensure the safety of commuters,” Petinglay said. PNA