By Ali G. Macabalang
Cotabato City — Nineteen houses of Teduray tribesmen were torched by combatants of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in a rampage in Maguindanao purportedly meant to avenge their heavy losses in an ongoing military operation.
At least 285 Teduray families fled their homes after the BIFF combatants led by Daesh-inspired Esmael Abdulmalik killed a Teduray farmer and torched 19 houses in a rampage prompted purportedly by the death of four comrades and five others in military airstrikes in Datu Hofer, Datu Saudi, Shariff Aguak and South Upi towns.
Bulletin sources said BIFF combatants bannering the Daesh black flag first razed to the ground three houses on Dec. 26 and 16 more houses on Dec. 29 in Teduray villages of Datu Hofer town in Maguindanao.
The first arson attack happened in barangay Lipongo while the second attack was staged in a village near Mount Firis, known as an ancestral hallowed ground or sacred site for Teduray hill tribe people, sources said.
Provincial Budget Office chief Lynette Estandarte, focal person of Governor Esmael Mangudadatu’s People’s Relief and Medical Mission, yesterday provided local media with the names of the owners of the torched houses.
All 19 houses were gutted as they were all made of light materials, investigators said.
Estandarte said she got the identities of the home owners during their attempt last Wednesday to conduct a relief and medical mission.
Abdulmalik’s group also reportedly sustained fatalities and scores were wounded in an earlier military airstrike in Carmen, North Cotabato.
The military said five soldiers were wounded in a ground battle with BIFF rebels ensuing from the airstrike in Carmen.
The Army’s 6th Infantry Division said it would pursue “no letup” operations against the BIFF, alerting though civilians in affected areas to watch out for possible retaliatory attacks by the Islamic State-espousing combatants.
Estandarte said that several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had been planted in Datu Hofer town.
Last Sunday, one police element of adjacent Shariff Aguak town was killed and five other cops were wounded when their patrol car was hit by an IED explosion planted on a road leading to a secluded village being infiltrated by BIFF bandits.