4 BIFFs killed in army shelling; 20 houses burned in Moro fighting PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 11:44

Four guerrillas of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed in artillery shelling directed at the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato Saturday, a source from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told MindaNews Monday.

The Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion artillery units based in Pikit town shellled dozens of rounds of 105 howitzers toward Kabasalan, one of the villages occupied by the BIFF since last week following a clash with the MILF.

Commander Sekak, a lieutenant of MILF commander Jack Abas, told MindaNews that four BIFF fighters were killed in the Army artillery shelling around 1 p.m. Saturday.

Evacuating villagers said the military’s artillery offensive opened up around 6 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m.

Col. Noel Clement, 602nd Infantry Brigade chief, said the artillery fire was part of their clearing operations after the BIFF occupied Kabasalan.

“We want to normalize the situation by driving away the BIFF deep into the Liguasan marsh,” he said.

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, said in a statement the Army coordinated their offensive with the MILF forces on the ground.

Villagers told reporters that the BIFF has burned several houses in Buliok village, Pikit, just two kilometers away from Kabasalan.

Commander Abas said he has no rido (family feud) with the leadership of the BIFF but his former comrades should move away from his area of coverage.

He said the MILF is against the BIFF’s alleged practice of setting off improvised bombs in North Cotabato.

“The Army is stronger because of their artillery, but we are not backing off,” Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said in a statement.

He also denied four of his men were killed in the shelling.  “Only two, only two BIFFs were martyred.”

On Friday night, one MILF fighter was killed when the BIFF exploded a cellphone-triggered improvised bomb in in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

The MILF recovered seven improvised explosive devices which they detonated by setting them on fire.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Pikit said in a statement that more than 20 houses were burned in the outskirts of the town as government and MILF forces continued separate offensive operations against the BIFF Sunday.

The council said at least 17 homes of civilians who fled Kabasalan were burned razed.

“We cannot say who burned the houses. We counted 17 in Kabasalan alone,” Tahira Kalantongan, Pikit MDRRMC head, said.

Five other houses in the nearby village of Barongis, a stronghold of the MILF in Pikit, also burned down.

The 7th Infantry Battalion launched offensives Saturday and Sunday against the BIFF after the latter occupied eight villages in Pikit, North Cotabato,and two others in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

MILF Commander Jack Abas said the BIFF moved out of Kabasalan after the Army shelled their positions with mortar and howitzer fire and continued ground operations.

“Our troops are now in Kabasalan conducting clearing operations,” he said in a phone interview.