MANILA - Sixty-three civilians were rescued from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) while two members were arrested Wednesday after the rebel group launched an attack in Pigcawayan town, North Cotabato, the military said Thursday.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Joint Task Force Central rescued 63 civilians at around 6 p.m. in Malagakit Elementary School.
The military said 31 hostages were used as human shields by the BIFF. As the military pursued the bandits, 32 more residents caught in the crossfire joined the hostages and were also rescued by the AFP.
Meanwhile, a member of the Civilian Active Auxiliary died in the firefight while two others were wounded.
In a separate operation, two BIFF members were arrested at a checkpoint in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.
They were identified as Jahren Mantukay, 23, and Bardurin Limba, 28.
Two sachets of suspected shabu were seized from the BIFF members.
The bandits are currently being held at the Datu Piang Police Station for proper investigation and disposition.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the military was still in pursuit of the BIFF bandits.
"As of press time, pursuit is continuously being conducted by the 602nd Infantry Bridage, following the attack perpetrated by the BIFF bandits under Commander Abunawas, OB10, Abu Saide, Sala and Agila against the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team at an outpost in Barangay Malagakit at around 6 a.m. yesterday," Galvez said.
The military had earlier said the BIFF attack in North Cotabato had nothing to do with firefights between government troops and terrorists in Marawi City, which has been raging for a month.