Wednesday Jul, 28 2021 09:17:02 AM

Army regains control of Maguindanao town seized by BIFF

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 13:00 PM Sat May 8, 2021
Edwin O. Fernandez
Civilians watch the unfolding of a brief skirmishes between government forces and BIFF in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao Saturday as Army arrives. (Photo courtesy of Ar-den Tailan Odchigue/Teng Madidis))

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Government forces have regained control of the town center in Maugindanao that outlawed Moro gunmen seized at 4 a.m. Saturday.

“We are now in control of the public market in Datu Paglas, clearing operations were still going on,” Lt. Colonel John Paul Baldomar, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said.

He said no casualty was reported on government side and could not say if the rebels had casualties.

The military have launched air and ground assaults on the rebels’ position at about 9 a.m. until the rebels withdraw toward the mountainous area of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

Soldiers found four improvised bombs around the marketplace left by fleeing rebels.  These were safely deactivated.

Abu Jihad, speaking for the BIFF, said about 150 gunmen belonging to the Kagi Karialan faction, have no plans to seize Datu Paglas.

“Our freedom fighters were there to rest and were about to return to our camps when soldiers arrived and fired at us, we were force to return fire,” Abu Jihad said in the vernacular.

The gunmen was led by a certain Undo Sulayman, son in law of BIFF leader Kagi Karialan.  Sulayman who is a resident of Datu Paglas was reported to be at odds with the local leaders.

But Datu Paglas town Vice Mayor Mohammad Paglas denied his family, a dominant clan in Datu Paglas, was at not in good terms with Sulayman.

“On board five big trucks, they arrived in town and stayed at the town center on Friday morning,” Vice Mayor Paglas said. 

“Since it is Ramadan, the LGU allowed them in town provided they will not harm the civilians,” Vice Mayor Paglas said, the gunmen were on board five Isuzu elf cargo trucks.

The Army later learned of their presence in town so soldiers were sent to check the report.

Feared for possible Army offensives, the BIFF seized the town public market, ordered the marketgoers and vendors to stay put.

As more soldiers have arrived, the BIFF let go of the civilians and took defensive stance.

Baldomar said the Army let the Datu Paglas LGU to negotiate for the rebels’ peaceful withdrawal to avoid bloodshed.

There were trading of bullets and assault rifles until the rebels fled and dispersed.

Vice Mayor Paglas described the rebels as “young” about 15 to 25 years old.

At least 5,000 individuals have been displaced by the conflict.

While clearing operation was still being conducted, the displaced families stayed in nearby public schools.

“We are awaiting clearance from the military before we will allow the families to return home,” Paglas said.

Traffic along the national highway linking Maguindanao and North Cotabato was re-opened at 12 noon. 

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