ZAMBOANGA CITY: Troops launched a new assault on suspected lairs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao province following a clash that left more than two dozen infantrymen wounded. Among the injured soldiers was a helicopter pilot who was shot while providing air support to ground troops fighting the BIFF on Thursday. Details of the latest assault was not immediately available, but security forces were sent to pursue the rebels in the province.
The clashes erupted hours after troops captured four rebels and two BIFF camps in the village of Liab in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town, according to Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division. She identified the captured rebels as Aladin Panaydan, 22; Daud Balogat, 23; Ebrahim Oraw, 40; and Abdul Madalidaw, 33.
Petinglay said troops recovered one .45-caliber pistol, one Thompson sub-machine gun and assorted materials used in the manufacture of improvised explosives, including four cell phones from the rebels.
“The capture of the BIFF camps only proves that it is being used in the manufacture of improvised explosives,” Petinglay quoted Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, as saying.
The BIFF, a breakaway group of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with Manila, is fighting for Muslim independence in the restive South.
At least 16,000 families have been displaced by the military offensive against the rebel group.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte issued the figures amid reports that the number of displaced families hit 80,000.
“It’s 16,111 families in 59 barangays. Of this number, 13,261 are in 49 evacuation centers, and we have been giving them relief assistance amounting to P16.6-million,” Valte said.