More or less 50 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed during a military operation in Buliok Complex, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office said Sunday.
“Persistent reports indicate the BIFF incurred a lot of casualties during the military operation. More or less 50 were killed from the enemy side,” Cabunoc told Manila Standard Today.
According to the report, casualty count is still being confirmed but Cabunoc said they “believe that the BIFF indeed sustained many casualties due to heavy traces of blood in the area.”
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, meanwhile, urged BIFF rebels to surrender or face the overwhelming military firepower.
“If they will surrender, that’s fine, but if they will resist, the government will throw everything it has against them,” Gazmin said in the report.
As of 4 p.m. Saturday, the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion has managed to clear the main battle ground at Barangay Kabasalan in Pikit, North Cotabato, which is part of the Buliok Complex, the report said.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said military offensive against the BIFF started with artillery fire on Friday. Coordinated ground and air support forces moved in on Saturday morning at BIFF positions in Barangay Bulol in Pikit town.
The fighting ended Saturday night after the BIFF fled to Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao, which is also part of the Buliok Complex.
“The BIFF forces who were left in the area withdrew towards the marshy area of Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao,” Petinglay said.
“We are still awaiting the report from the 7th IB as to the casualties on the BIFF side and the recovered IEDs in Kabasalan during the clearing operations yesterday (Saturday) afternoon,” she added.
According to the report, the BIFF, led by a certain commander Karialan, and the MILF, under commander Jack Abas, clashed at the boundary of Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato for almost three weeks, leaving 25,000 civilians displaced.