FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – Heavily armed men simultaneously attacked the military outposts belonging to the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Maguindanao Province since 11:30pm, Sunday (August 5).
Believed to be members of Ameril Ombra Kato's Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), unspecified number of gunmen attacked the Army detachments located in three towns of Maguindanao including Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Ampatuan just before midnight.
The soldiers traded fires with the rebels, triggering a fierce gun battle that lasted several hours.
Troop reinforcements were sent to enhance the defenses of the small outposts which are tasked to keep the peace in the area.
The rebels also harrassed the soldiers manning Salman Detachment in Ampatuan town at 6:15am. No one was hurt among the soldiers who courageously repulsed the rebels.
Two dead rebels who were left behind by their companions were found by local residents. Eyewitnesses also claimed to have seen two other BIFF members who were wounded in the fighting.
Two soldiers were hurt including an officer who got a bullet wound on his foot. The other soldier, Corporal Romel Mantos of the 603rd Brigade sustained minor wounds and was given medical treatment by the Army's combat medics.
One soldier belonging to the 38th Infantry Battalion was declared missing after he was flagged down by heavily armed men along the highway in Datu Unsay town.
He was on his way to Cotabato City on board a motorcycle to transact business at a local bank. He was warned by soldiers manning a detachment about the ongoing harrassments but he insisted to to proceed towards his destination.
There were no reports about civilian casualties but local residents were complaining about the power outage after the rebels reportedly cut down some electric posts along the highway using chainsaws.
The local military commanders in the area are coordinating with the local officials and the police about the security situation in the area. Soldiers are deployed in strategic areas to protect the innocent civilians against the attackers.
Supporting the peace process
The local commanders of the MILF in the affected areas are closely coordinating with the Army in monitoring the presence of Kato's men in their respective communities.
Commander Adan, an MILF leader in Ampatuan town has deployed his men to block the entry of BIFF members in his locality where his members are maintaining a huge tract of farmland. They didn't want the source of livelihood to be destroyed in the armed clashes.
Major Harold Cabunoc, the Army spokesperson, said that the soldiers will uphold the primary of the peace process.
He also said that the Army appreciated the gestures shown by the MILF members who are very supportive in the ongoing peace negotiations.
"Our soldiers will always uphold the primacy of the peace process and will try to prevent the escalation of the hostilities. We also call on the BIFF members led by Kato, to return to the mainstream MILF and become our partners in bringing lasting peace in their land," he said.
This file photo that I took in 2011 shows the fertile arable lands of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. Some of the MILF fighters are now engaged in farming like the group of Commander Adan who are tending their farms in Laguilayan village near the border with Esperanza, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. Aerial photo of this area is shown below (Google map photo).