MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato--- Sixteen people were abducted including 13 school teachers during the series of attacks perpetrated by the members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Polangoguen village here at 8:35am on Monday (Sep 23).
The simultaneous attacks commenced at about 8:30am in the villages of Polangoguen and Tuwal where the troops of the 40th Infantry Battalion of the Army's 6th Infantry Division were conducting security operations.
One soldier was killed while another one was injured in the fierce fighting that ensued. As troop reinforcements arrived, the attackers gradually retreated.
Fearing for their lives, some civilian residents including school teachers sought refuge in Sitio Malingao. Unfortunately, they were taken hostage by the fleeing bandits who were pursued by the soldiers, leading to a stand-off.
To avoid hitting the innocent civilians who were used as human shields, the military commander sent a village councilman named Datu Try to negotiate for the release of the hostages.
The captors agreed to release all of the trapped residents including four out of 13 school teachers who were held at gunpoint together with 4 village officials.
The gunmen retreated with the rest of their captives towards their hideouts in the Liguasan Marsh.
There were series of clashes that occurred during the day involving the blocking forces of the BIFF.
The soldiers spotted dead gunmen who were dragged by their companions as they fled.
The Army accounted 3 soldiers dead and two wounded in action (WIA) as of 5:00pm.
Pfc Jesson Ponsica, one of the slightly wounded soldiers opted to remain with his team after being treated by the Army's combat medics. He joined the relentless pursuit operations conducted by the Army.
At around 4:45am today (Sep 24), the remaining hostages (9 school teachers and 4 village councilmen) were released by their captors in Sambulawan village.
A local official here fetched the hostages and brought them to Amado Hospital in the town for medical check-up.
Pursuit operations against the hostage-takers are still ongoing.
The Army headquarters in Camp Siongco has lowered its flag in half-mast to honor the soldiers who died heroically to save the hostages.