KIDAPAWAN CITY – Jihadist fighters armed with automatic weapons swooped down early Wednesday on a southern Filipino town and attacked military posts and schools and escaped with at least 5 civilian hostages used as shield against pursuing army soldiers, officials said.
Officials said more troops were sent to pursue the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Pigcawayan town following the daring raid. Fighting broke out in at least 2 villages and sent civilians fleeing into safer areas to avoid getting trapped in the battle.
At least 200 militants, whose group pledged support to the Islamic State, were said to have attacked and ransacked several schools, but there were no reports of civilian casualties. Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the BIFF, confirmed his group launched simultaneous attacks against military targets and said they took several civilians during their escape.
The BIFF raid coincided with the on-going battle between local ISIS fighters and security forces in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province. But a military spokesman, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, was quick to say that the BIFF attack was not connected to the Marawi crisis, now entering its second month. “It was purely an opportunistic attack and is not connected to the Marawi fighting,” he said.
The Department of Education in North Cotabato has suspended classes in the town, citing the breakout of violence in the area. It did not say when classes would resume, although the fighting was reported in the villages of Malagakit and Simsiman.
It was unclear how the BIFF managed to launch attacks without being detected by the police and military in the town and during the state of martial law imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the region in an effort to quell the ISIS rebellion in Marawi and other parts of the Mindanao. Security officials would not say if there was failure in intelligence gathering or lapses in security in the province.
Just recently, security forces also killed 2 aalleged BIFF members in a firefight in Maguindanao’s Shariff Aguak town. Officials said policemen, backed by soldiers, were trying to arrest Raul Angkay and Edz Dalending when they engaged security personnel in a gun battle.
Angkay was also included in the list of wanted terrorists. Troops also recovered a .45-caliber pistol and a fragmentation grenade from Angkay. No other details were made available by officials.(Rhoderick Beñez)
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