CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Thirty-seven members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and a soldier were killed as the military operation against Moro rebels in Maguindanao entered its third day, the Army here said.
”We will continue the manhunt for the next 72 hours,” Colonel Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said in a news conference here.
Of the number of BIFF killed, about 12 dead bodies were recovered by soldiers in Datu Piang, Shariff Saydona and Sultan sa Barongis, all in Maguindanao, Hermoso said.
”Ironic but sad, the BIFF used child warriors as shown among the dead bodies our troops on the ground have recovered,” Hermoso said.
He said some of the dead BIFF were still on the marshland and could not be retrieved by troops as BIFF had snipers firing at them.
Hermoso said the police punitive action jointly carried out by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Maguindanao police will continue in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
Hermoso said one soldier was killed in action while seven other infantrymen were wounded and are now recuperating at a hospital in Camp Siongco, the home of 6th Infantry Division.
Hermoso also told reporters the military is assisting the police in the towns surrounding Maguindanao and North Cotabato to thwart any attempt by BIFF or its sympathizers from carrying out bombings as diversionary tactic.
”They have started it in Datu Piang when they set off a bomb at the town’s public terminal,” Hermoso said, saying the blast hurt a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old girl.
”Our major highways remain passable and safe because we have successfully contained the BIFF in one area in the marshland,” he said.
Police and Army checkpoints have been put up along portions of Cotabato-Gen. Santos highway and Cotabato City-Davao City highway.
Government forces have been serving warrants of arrest for BIFF members for carnapping, kidnapping, bombings and murders when clashes erupted in Maguindanao marshland Sunday.
Before the Army offensive was carried out Monday, civilians in four Maguindanao towns and two North Cotabato towns were given ample time to evacuate. (PNA)