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Last updateThu, 18 Sep 2014 9pm

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Maguindanao gun battles raging; 8 dead so far

JOINT police and military forces are still battling members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) under Ameril Umbra Kato who simultaneously attacked military detachment and camps in Maguindanao last week.

As of Sunday four soldiers and four of the attackers have been killed.

While the policemen and soldiers have already cleared major roads and highways in and around Maguindanao from the rouge Moros who have occupied them, the fighting have shifted to the mountainous areas in the towns of Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi and Shariff Aguak in the province.

“Yes, fighting if still going on...the operation [to clear the areas] is still ongoing here, particularly up where we are located, the 105 mm [howitzer] is still booming,” said Col. Mayoralgo de la Cruz, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade.

“They [BIFM gunmen] are withdrawing and we are running after them,” de la Cruz said, clarifying reports that Kato’s men are still holding key highways in Maguindanao.

The soldiers want the operation to end early so that residents who earlier evacuated to escape the fighting could go back to their homes, and for the recovery efforts by the government to start.

“We want to end it the soonest. The sooner, the better, but it really depend on their resistance...their logistics. They might already be running out of ammunition...even firearms,” de la Cruz said.

However, de la Cruz remained wary that the BIFM fighters were just resting and may launch another wave of attacks in the next days.

The fighting in Maguindanao began on August 7 after hundreds of rogue Moro fighters simultaneously attacked eight military detachment and camps under the 1st Mechanized Brigade in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay and Ampatuan.

Aside from the eight killed soldiers and rogue fighters, three soldiers were wounded in the firefights.

The Moro rebels also cut down electric posts and bombed two transmission towers of the National Grid Corp. at Barangay Galakit, Pagalungan, causing power outages in at least 11 towns in Maguindanao.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the fighting has forced the evacuation of 7,865 families or 39,325 persons in 18 barangays in Maguindanao; of which 3,448 families are housed in government-run shelters.

It has also forced the suspension of classes in 16 schools, affecting 10,572 students.

(With Z. Solmerin)

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