8 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clash
(philstar.com) - July 16, 2016 - 1:55pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Eight bandits were killed while seven soldiers were wounded in hostilities this week in the province, sparked by an attack  last Wednesday on an Army team studying Moro culture in Mamasapano town.

Senior members of the municipal security councils in the  neighboring Mamasapano, Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak towns on Saturday said there are talks spreading around purporting that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are now preparing for retaliations, angered by the deaths of eight members in the encounters.

The sources, among them elected officials, identified the BIFF fatalities as Monib, a certain “Boy ISIS,” Odin, Bansil, Bohari, Nasif, Badrudin and an adolescent named Salik.

The local officials also confirmed that 10 bandits, Tuwah, Runi, Omar, Tanser, Kasim, Kamar, Kahirudin, Ibrahim, Moctar, and Odih, were wounded in the gunfights.

They told reporters it was the BIFF that provoked the hostilities, which erupted early Wednesday and waned late Thursday, displacing more than 500 ethnic Maguindanaon families.

The BIFF, led by fanatical clerics, among them graduates of religious universities in the Middle East and North Africa, boasts of its loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. 

The skirmishes last Wednesday escalated when BIFF members fired at soldiers patrolling in nearby Barangay Meta in Datu Unsay to avenge the deaths of three bandits killed in their incursions earlier the same day in Barangay Kuloy in Mamasapano.

Seven soldiers, Privates 1st Class Dan Antiporta, Glen Villanueva, Jason Ojanola, Manolito Tero and Ronnie Angel and Corporals Mike Encarnacion and Kim Tablasan were wounded in the two-day running firefights.

Evacuees told reporters the BIFF started the trouble before dawn Wednesday with an attack on Visayan personnel of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) dispatched to Barangay Kuloy to study the culture and religious practices of villagers.

The 19th IB, comprised largely of non-Muslim soldiers from provinces in the Visayas, arrived in Central Mindanao just before the May 9 synchronized local and national elections.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), which has jurisdiction over military units in Maguindanao, said the community immersion activity of the soldiers from Visayas was only meant to educate them on the social and religious norms of Maguindanaons.

“It was never a tactical activity. It was purely an educational engagement parallel with the religious and cultural sensitivity policy of 6th ID,” Petinglay said.

The BIFF’s latest attacks at Barangay Kuloy fanned undue apprehensions among villagers on their safety, worried that the group might persecute them for helping in the educational program of the soldiers, now suspended indefinitely.

“The BIFF is known for harassing and even executing villagers on mere suspicion of conniving with the military,” Samad Kusin, a 45-year-old farmer, said in the Maguindanaon dialect.

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