COTABATO CITY – The death toll from the Christmas eve attack of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has risen to 10.
Another cadaver of a civilian was found Saturday afternoon at Sitio Midpalao, Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, two days after the series of attacks perpetuated by the BIFF in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat and Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Nine civilians were earlier reported killed in the series of attacks. Army troops also killed four members of the BIFF after they attacked a farming town in Sultan Kudarat province on the southern island of Mindanao.
Lt Col. Ricky Bunayog, 33rd Infantry Battalion Commander, identified the tenth fatality as Rodolfo Roquero. His body was turned over to Ampatuan police for filing of appropriate report and proper disposition.
The BIFF members first harassed the detachment of the Philippine Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Banaba, Datu Abdullah Sangki in Maguindanao 3 a.m. Thursday.
Some 10 minutes later, another BIFF group led by Sukarno Sapal alias Suks, the group's 2nd Division Commander, entered Sitio Kakal, Barangay Kauran, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
BIFF members then went to Barangay Paitan in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, where three civilians were killed.
Military said four were killed from the BIFF, including Kaser Sapal, brother of BIFF commander Sukarno Sapal, while six others were reportedly injured from the rebel group.
Meanwhile, a village councilor identified as Roberto Lerado, 42, was killed during a BIFF attack in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato, also during Christmas eve.
A detachment of the 38th Infantry Battalion located in Barangay Simsiman and a barangay peacekeeping team outpost in Barangay Malagakit, both in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, were also harassed by the combined forces of a certain Abunawas Damiog, Hasan Indal and Musa Alamada alias Paradise, all members of BIFF.
The Bangsamoro group broke away from the main Muslim rebel group in 2011 to fight for the creation of an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic country, a goal shared by another small militant group, Abu Sayyaf, which has gained notoriety for bombings, beheadings and kidnappings of foreigners in the western part of Mindanao.
The ceasefire with the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front is holding, however, while both the government and communist guerrillas declared a 12-day ceasefire from Dec. 23 nationwide to mark the Christmas and New Year's holidays. On Saturday, the Maoist-led rebel group is also celebrating its 46th anniversary.
Security forces are on heightened alert around shopping malls, churches, bus stations and ferry terminals during the holidays to guard against possible attacks.
Police officials said the group behind the Christmas eve attacks in Mindanao had pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants in the Middle East in videos posted to YouTube but they had no evidence linking them directly to militants from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They also had no evidence that any Filipinos had traveled to the Middle East to fight with IS.
In March 2014, the Philippines signed a peace deal with the main Muslim rebels granting the minority Moro people autonomy in exchange for dismantling the 11,000-strong guerrilla army and turning over their weapons, ending a 45-year conflict that killed 120,000 people and displaced 2 million. – with Reuters