CARMEN, North Cotabato, Feb. 24 — The two-day Philippine military offensive in the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao has likely killed more than 30 members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), according to a military source on Tuesday.
Colonel Noel Clement, chief of the 602nd Infantry Brigade here, said the information on the number of fatalities was based on the information from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and civilians who have relatives in the outlawed group.
”We have no way to verify the exact number of fatalities as Muslim tradition dictates to bury the dead within 24 hours,” Clement told reporters.
”Based on our reports from the ground, more than 30 BIFF fighters were buried in at least two mass graves,” he said.
Lt. Colonel Audie Edralin of 7th Infantry Battalion, said civilians have begun returning home after the Army cleared the affected barangays of Bulod, Bulol, Barongis, Rajamuda and Buliok in Pikit; and Kalbugan in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.
”They (BIFF) dispersed and fled toward Sultan sa Barongis,” he said.
More than 50 rounds of howitzers and mortars were fired by the military to drive away the lawless elements who have repeatedly harassing civilians at the same time engaging the MILF in a week-long fire fight.
”We have a very accurate target because the MILF in the area provided us the exact BIFF location,” an Army intelligence officer told reporters.
Edralin also said the military is providing back up support to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in North Cotabato following reports and public pronouncement made by Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF.
Mama, who admitted his group retreated toward the Liguasan marshland, said he suspected the provincial government, through Governor Emmylou Mendoza, has been helping the MILF to drive his group out of North Cotabato.
Mama said his group will strike at the provincial capitol or Kidapawan City. (PNA)