AT least 200 members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked a civilian outpost in North Cotabato on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of civilians in two barangays, police and military officials reported.
The terrorists, led by five commanders of the BIFF, attacked the outpost of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) at Barangay Malagakit in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, at around 5 a.m., triggering a firefight.
The barangay security personnel were reinforced by elements of the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion and members of the Pigcawayan Municipal Police Force, prompting the attackers to withdraw into a public-school building and take 12 students as human shields, said Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division.
Reports, however, quoted BIFF Spokesman Abu Misry Mama as denying the use of the civilians as human shields by the terrorists, adding they took them to remove them from harm’s way as they exchanged gunfire with government troops.
During the firefight, policemen and municipal government employees evacuated residents from Malagakit and the adjoining barangay of Banucagon into the municipal building, a report from the Police Regional Office 12 said.
Local officials received reports about the planned attack on Tuesday night, prompting them to evacuate most of the residents of the two barangays, the police report added.
Encinas said they also alerted military detachments in Pigcawayan a day before the attack, which is why the government successfully repulsed it.
“Our soldiers managed to react on time because we monitored all their movements, including their planned harassment. All Army detachments, BPAT were notified that is why the BIFF fighters were not successful in their harassment and withdrew immediately,” Encinas said. “The sad thing is they used as human shields our civilians when they withdrew.”
Encinas reported no casualty from the government side.
In Camarines Norte a soldier was killed while four others were wounded during a firefight between government troops and members of the New People’s Army.
Reports from the Ninth Infantry Division said the clash erupted after the rebels lobbed a hand grenade into a military detachment at Barangay Dumagmang, Labo.
During the one-hour firefight, a soldier was killed while four others were wounded.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called on Filipinos on Wednesday to unite against terrorism as troops continued to battle the Maute-IS group in Marawi City.
“As government security forces continue to defeat and retake positions from ISIS-linked local terrorists, we see the need, now more than ever, for the Filipino people to unite against these forces of evil. We must always remember that terrorism goes against everything that we stand for as Filipinos – it is anti-environment, anti-people, anti-country, and anti-God,” he said. “Let us all show our strong rejection of the terrorists and their sympathizers’ futile attempts to sway the hearts and minds of our people by ignoring and reporting terrorist-linked and suspicious social media accounts to the proper authorities. We must also be very discerning in sharing any information that may cause undue panic that would further the enemy’s agenda.”