7 BIFF rebels killed, 13 soldiers hurt in Maguindanao clash

SHARIFF AGUAK, Philippines – At least 7 Muslim rebels were killed in the latest round of battles between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the government in Maguindanao, a military official said Saturday, March 7.

According to Army Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, the encounter started around 2:30 pm on Friday when soldiers fired howitzers in the remote villages of Datu Piang and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, where BIFF members were believed to be positioned.

The clash ended 2:00 am of Saturday.

Petinglay added that at least 13 soldiers were wounded in the battle, among them the co-pilot of a Huey helicopter deployed to airlift other wounded troopers. Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said the pilot was hit in his arm and right side of his body by a BIFF sniper.

“All wounded personnel only sustained minor injuries. They are already safe,” Pangilinan told reporters.

Pursuit of terrorists

Colonel Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the 603rd Brigade, said the latest encounter is still part of their "mandate to pursue armed lawless elements and terrorists" in the area.

“Based on the reports we got about their movements, there are indications that the key leaders, including Basit Usman, is still in Maguindanao,” he added.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama confirmed that they engaged with the military, but he denied losing their members in the battle.

Since February 25, after the military ordered an all-out-offensive against the BIFF, 4 camps of the rebels were already overrun by soldiers. A total of 16 rebels have been killed since then.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Philippines estimates that the ongoing conflicts have already displaced over 75,000 people in affected areas. – Rappler.com