CHECK: Casualties of Soldier-BIFF fight in Maguindanao

Thirteen members of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and two government troopers – including a lieutenant – were killed in the ongoing skirmishes in Maguindanao.

“The number of BIFF killed was based on two-way radio conversations we intercepted from factions of the terror group and from civilians on the ground,” Capt. Arvin John Encinas, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman, told the local media in an interview Thursday.

“We had one BIFF body count and several other unidentified bodies of BIFF elements killed during air and artillery assaults in the border of Datu Paglas and Mamasapano towns the past two days,” Encinas added.

Three of the BIFF fatalities recovered by Army troopers in the battle zone were identified as Ali Tudon, Alamid Yusop, and Katod Bensar, all members of the BIFF faction under Kagui Karialan.

“Unfortunately, we also have two soldiers, including an Army lieutenant, who perished in the battle,” Encinas said. He declined to identify the fatalities pending notification of their respective families.

In addition, he said that 15 other Army troopers were wounded so far in the gun battles.

Encinas said 14 firearms, consisting of four M16 rifles, three M14 rifles, one Carbine rifle, a .30-caliber machinegun, an Ultimax rifle, a .38-caliber pistol, and three 12-gauge shotguns, were recovered from the fleeing BIFF members.

On Wednesday, four roadside bombs targeting government forces were disarmed by military bomb disposal experts between Barangay Sepaka, Datu Paglas, and Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano, as government troops inched their way toward BIFF positions in the area.

“The BIFF is on the run,” Encinas said, adding that the latest of the running gun battles was reported around 6 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Dapiawan, Datu Saudi town. Other areas affected by the clashes are the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Salibo, Rajah Muda, and Datu Unsay.

Local government units of the affected towns, in coordination with the provincial government and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Humanitarian Emergency Assistance Response Team, are now attending to over a thousand families displaced by the conflict. (PNA)