BIFF men seize hostages in North Cotabato-A A +A
Monday, September 23, 2013
MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato -- About 150 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) opposed to peace talks with the government stormed Midsayap, North Cotabato on Monday and seized several hostages, including teachers and civilians.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF men first attacked the villages of Raradangan and Tugal, two Midsayap villages in the borders with Datu Piang, Maguindanao.
Six villages have been affected by the conflict.
Four teachers and civilians were reported captured by the rebels and were used as human shields against pursing government forces.
One soldier was killed, said Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala in a television interview.
The first armed skirmishes erupted at 8 a.m. when the BIFF attacked detachments of 40th Infantry Battalion, and as reinforcement came, the rebels broke into small groups and fled.
Along the way, the bandits snatched civilians and teachers who were fleeing.
At 9 a.m., about 100 soldiers from the 602nd Infantry Brigade in Carmen, North Cotabato arrived and launched offensives.
Hermoso said two soldiers were hurt.
Quoting a report from village officials, about five BIFF were killed and about 10 were hurt.
Mayor Romeo Arania of Midsayap confirmed that teachers of Malingao Elementary School were used as human shields by fleeing BIFF.
“One of the teachers who managed to flee told me the teachers were not harmed, they were just told not to leave the school,” Arania said.
A professor of Notre Dame of Midsayap said one of the hostages was his wife, a public school teacher. He called his wife’s mobile phone at 9 a.m., but a member of the BIFF answered his call and told him not to call anymore.
“We are doing our best to rescue the trapped teachers and civilians,” Hermoso said.
“Our forces are battling the BIFF and it was difficult for the teachers to get out of school because they might be hit by stray bullets,” Hermoso said.
He said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front were not involved in the skirmishes.
“In fact, they put up blocking forces in their communities against BIFF,” Hermoso said.
The affected villages have been regularly harassed by BIFF forces whose area of operations are in Datu Shariff Saydona and Datu Piang, both in Maguindanao. (PNA/AP/Sunnex)