Thursday, July 14, 2016

12 killed including a youngster as Army battles BIFF in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Jul 14): 12 killed including a youngster as Army battles BIFF in Maguindanao

Reports reaching Manila indicated that at least 11 armed men were killed Wednesday, plus a youngster who died in the crossfire, as government troops and forces of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tangled in sporadic firefights in the towns of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak, both in Maguindanao, Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, indicated.

BIFF is a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Sobejana said there was no body count of the BIFF casualties, but indicated that ground troops were able to gather intelligence.

"But we already have the names of five of the casualties," he said.

Sobejana said that, as of Thursday afternoon, sporadic firefights continue as two soldiers were reported wounded with 19 wounded on the BIFF side.

He identified the youngster killed in the crossfire as Fatima Elian, 15, who was hit by caliber .50 machine gun fire.

"The other side were using at least one Barert cal .50, and we also have a cal. 50. We can't as yet establish conclusively whose bullet hit her."

He said the encounter broke out Wednesday in Barangay Kuloy, Datu Unsay and spread into nearby barangays, including some areas in Shariff Aguak.

The encounter started at around 6:20 a.m. when soldiers made contact with a group of an estimated 35 BIFF fighters.

The fight forced the BIFF band to scatter into groups that also broke the soldiers' main flank going into pursuit mode.

Sobejana said that the armed encounter dragged on as more BIFF lawless elements joined their comrades led by commanders identified only as Rocky, King Itim and Sukarno Sapal.

"Our last estimate of the lawless elements involved in the firefights is between 70 and 80 men," Sobejana said.

He said his command is utilizing the 34th, 57th, 33rd, and 40th Infantry Battalions to operate against the lawless elements.

"We haven't started deploying our 105mm Howitzers considering their wider lethal radius. So far, our calibrated offense includes air assets, like the MG-520 helicopter gun ships equipped with rockets and cal .50 machine gun," he said.

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