Gov’t forces took back a public market stormed by armed men belonging to Islamic State (IS)-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao on Saturday morning, May 8.
Lt. Col. JP Baldomar, spokesperson of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Central, said troops from the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division (6ID) clashed with scores of BIFF terrorists to take control of a public market situated along the highway in Datu Paglas town around 4 a.m.
Baldomar could not confirm how many BIFF fighters the soldiers fought but local media Brigada News FM in Cotabato City reported that there were 100 armed BIFF fighters in the area. There was no recorded casualty the side of the military but no immediate information was available for BIFF.
“Sa ngayon na-occupy na ng tropa ‘yong palengke sa Datu Paglas at na-evacuate na namin ‘yong mga residente. On-going po ang clearing operations natin sa highway kasi may mga iniwan silang IEDs [improvised explosive device] (Right now, the troops have already occupied the market in Datu Paglas and we evacuated the residents. Clearing operations are on-going along the highway because they left IEDs),” Baldomar told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.
Elements of the 6th ID have conducted a series of operations against the BIFF in the past weeks, Baldomar said, which forced them to retreat into the town proper of Datu Paglas.
He said the terrorists attempted to take control of the public market as the residents went to buy food for Ramadan.
“Open area kasi ito [Datu Paglas] so early morning maraming tao ang pumupunta dyan sa palengke para bumili ng pagkain because of Ramadan. Kaninang umaga pagdating ng mga mamimili, sinabayan sila ng armadong grupo (It is an open so many people visit the market early in the morning to buy food because of Ramadan. When the marketgoers started arriving early morning, the armed group blended with them),” he narrated.
Luckily, the troops were able to respond in time as they pushed back against the terrorists, Baldomar said.
“We have to return fire para makuha natin ‘yong mga naipit (to rescue the ones who were caught in the line of fire),” he said.
The armed men were forced to escape after facing pressure from the soldiers, he said.
As of writing, Baldomar said the highway in Datu Paglas remained close to traffic as clearing operations were being conducted. At least four IEDs were already retrieved so far.
He said a follow up operation was launched to hunt them down.