Government soldiers foiled the attempt of extremist groups to overrun two military posts in the restive province of Maguindanao of the autonomous region in Mindanao following fierce firefights on Sunday.
There were no reports of casualties from either side, but the clashes allegedly involved the groups of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.
MILF soldiers from the 106th Base Command under ‘Haron’ and ‘Diego’ attacked the 1st Mechanized Battalion in the village of Bagan in Guindulungan town late Sunday and engaged government forces in a firefight that lasted for over an hour.
The attack was believed to be in retaliation to a military operation against a group of armed men in Kitapuk village earlier on Sunday.
Troops recovered weapons and ammunition after the clash.
At 8 p.m. on Sunday, about 50 heavily armed BIFF also attacked a military base in the village of Kabpangi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan but quickly fled when soldiers traded shots. The firefight lasted for 40 minutes.
The BIFF, which pledged allegiance with ISIS, is fighting for a separate Islamic state in the troubled region.
Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade chief, said there were no casualties from the government side during the clashes but could not confirm whether there were casualties from the attackers.
Ferrer said his men tried to chase the rebels along the narrow cemented highway but retreated for fear of booby traps that could have been left by the attackers.
At about 7 a.m. yesterday, government forces found an improvised bomb with a rope tied to a tree during the clearing operations on the encounter site. The IED could have exploded had pursuing soldiers stepped on it, Ferrer said.
Limet said prior to the attacks, Army intelligence agents learned of an impending harassment by the BIFF in the so called “SPMS box,” a military term for the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona, a known bailiwick of the BIFF where government forces have de-tachments, command posts and checkpoints.
The military remain on heightened alert for possible attacks from BIFF.