MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Nine elementary school teachers trapped in a firefight between government troops and members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Midsayap, North Cotabato, are now safe, the local government said.
They were recovered by members of the military in Barangay Sambolawan at around 4:45 am Tuesday, September 24, and are now at the Amado Hospital in Misayap.
Previously, residents who were also trapped in the fighting were declared out of the danger zone shortly before 7 pm Monday, September 23, the military said.
Previously, Col Dickson Hermoso of the Army’s 6th infantry division said at least 9 elementary school teachers of Barangay Palongoguen were still “unaccounted for and believed to be taken hostage by the BIFF” as of Monday evening.
The local government, however, clarified the teachers were not taken hostage, but were just trapped when the fighting broke out.
The BIFF attacked at least 3 villages in Midsayap early Monday, forcing the suspension of classes and the evacuation of at least 1,800 families.
At least one member of government’s security forces was killed while another one was wounded, according to the military. The military added civilians saw dead bodies of 4 BIFF members.
Hermoso earlier said the BIFF abducted 4 teachers and 11 farmers, but BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama denied this.
Mama claimed responsibility for the attack, saying he had already warned the government and the residents about their plan to launch offensives in the area.
Mama denied they were holding hostages. “Hindi ito mga hostage. Iniligtas namin at pinatabi sila baka matamaan sila ng bala ng mga sundalo,” Mama said. (They are not our hostages. We secured them to avoid putting them in the line of fire.)
The military also said 3 soldiers were killed in a separate clash, still in Midsayap. One came from the 40th Infantry Batallion, and the two from the 7th IB. Two other soldiers were wounded.
At least 4 BIFF fighters were also killed, the military said, while an undetermined number were wounded. – Rappler.com