COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Eight people have been killed in firefights between government troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) fighters in the towns of Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, and Datu Hoffer in Maguindanao in the last 4 days.
Four of the 8 people killed were civilians. They include a 34-year-old woman who was killed in an attack at an evacuation center in Shariff Aguak.
Four soldiers were also killed.
Army 6th Infantry Division commander Major General Rey Ardo said the 2 of the slain soldiers were killed at a checkpoint manned by the former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels at Datu Unsay national highway.
"Pupunta sana sila ng Cotabato city para mag-loan pero pinigil at pinatay. Hindi naman pinugutan, pero may mga taga," Ardo said.
Mortar shellings and exchange of gunfire continued Thursday.
It did not stop ARMM Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Pombaen Kadir in leading the distribution of relief goods in the 3 evacuation centers in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
"As of today, we have more than 5,000 families evacuated and now temporarily staying in the evacuation centers," Kadir said.
It's been 4 days since the national highway of Datu Saudi going to Shariff Aguak has been closed.
The military said this is to ensure that no motorists will be caught in the crossfire.
The situation has prompted transportation companies, such as a bus firm, to re-route all its vehicles from south to north bound.
Aside from attacking towns in Maguindanao, the BIFM has also been involved in incidents in the towns of Midsayap and Pikit in North Cotabato.
Local government officials in the province have urged the BIFM to stop the attacks.
The MILF has also already condemned the breakaway group for the attacks.