KIDAPAWAN CITY – Government forces continue to hunt down some 200 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who attacked military posts and schools in the southern Philippine town of Pigcawayan as military offensive agains the jihadist group tied to ISIS entered its second day, officials said Thursday.
Officials said at least 2 pro-government militias were killed in the fighting and troops safely secured about 5 dozen civilians trapped in their village. They said many BIFF militants were killed, but Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the jihadist group, said one one was “martyred” and two others injured in the fighting that began June 21.
Security forces also cleared the villages of Malagakit and Simsiman from the raiders and officials have identified BIFF leaders Commander Abunawas, OB10, Abu Saide, Sala and Agila as behind the attack, and accused the militants of taking civilians and using them as shield from pursing soldiers.
Officials said more troops were sent to pursue the BIFF which pledged support to the Islamic State.
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 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. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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