By Malu Cadelina Manar
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) raided a village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, around 5:30 a.m., Wednesday, engaged government troopers in a firefight, and are holding hostages, six of them children, a police official said.
More than 300 BIFF rebels figured in the early morning attack in Barangay Malagakit, Pigcawayan. The ongoing firefight has resulted in one wounded CAFGU.
The BIFF is reportedly holding 12 hostages – six male adults and six children.
“We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities,” Chief Inspector Realan Mamon, municipal police station chief said.
He added that the armed group traveled from the marsh and went to Barangay Malagakit, Pigcawayan where they attacked an outpost of the 34th Infantry Battalion.
The attackers, according to Lt. Jayson, spokesperson for the 34th IB, were led by a certain Commander Aguila of the BIFF.
The exchange of fire forced a number of families in Barangay Malagakit to flee, according to Mamon. The town is in North Cotabato province in the center of Mindanao island.
He said they led the rescue of these families and brought them to the town’s Poblacion, particularly at the multi-purpose building, which is serving as their temporary shelter.
Pigcawayan is 190 km (120 miles) south of Marawi City, where BIFF militants, along with fighters from other groups allied to the Islamic State group, have been holed up and fighting the Philippines military for more than a month.
Fleeing BIFF members were also cited in nearby Midsayap town, according to local officials