THE second highest leader of the rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) and 16 other members were killed by government troops in an encounter in Maguindanao province.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, on Tuesday identified the BIFF leader as a certain alias “City Hunter”, who was believed to the right-hand man of BIFF chieftain Ameril Umbra Kato.
Hermoso said the fresh fighting erupted after the BIFF fighters tried to overrun the detachments of the 61st and 62nd Reconnaisance Companies in Barangay Ganta, Sharif Saydona Mustapha and in Barangay Dumabalas, Datu Piang, respectively.
“We have anticipated that they are going to attack. They also attacked last year before and after the Ramadan,” he added.
Hermoso said Barangay Ganta was once a rebel stronghold and home of the BIFF’s biggest camp till it was seized by the military last February.
Of the 16 other casualties, only four have so far been identified. They were Dris Salikl, Mashud Ali, Nur Hassan and Mantawil Kaliga.
“Verification of the identities of another 12 BIFF members who perished in the ensuring firefights is ongoing with the help of barangay officials and immas as they were hastily buried by their comrades after they withdrew from the scene,” Hermoso said.
Last February’s heavy fighting between government troops and the BIFF caused the evacuation of 9,465 families from the towns of Sharif Saydona, Raja Buayan and Datud Piang, all in Maguindanao, and Pikit in North Cotabato.
It also resulted to the capture of the BIFF biggest camp in Barangay Ganta and the neutralization of 101 BIFF personalities wherein 52 were killed and 49 were wounded.