Home » News » News Roundup » New Roundup » Regional » BIFF frees 31 hostages taken in North Cotabato

BIFF frees 31 hostages taken in North Cotabato

By AARON B. RECUENCO, With reports from Francis T. Wakefield

Thirty-one hostages, including 12 children, have been released by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters following a day-long clash with government troops Wednesday in a remote village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, spokesman of the Philippine National Police, said most of the children are students of the Malagakit Elementary School which was taken over by around 30 rebels.

During the hostage-taking, the BIFF rebels separated the Muslims from the Christians. Carlos said the rebels fled the school with six Muslim hostages.

Thirty-three civilians trapped near the school were rescued at around 7:30 p.m. and more than 500 from Barangay Malagakit and two adjacent villages were forced to flee the fighting, according to Carlos.

“It’s over. The last information that we received was that a clearing operation was already conducted,” said Carlos.

Some 300 BIFF rebels under Commander Abunawas, OB10, Abu Saide, Sala, and Agila attacked the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team outpost in Barangay Malagakit at 6 a.m. Military reinforcements forced some of the rebels to get inside the school.

A government militiaman and four rebels died during the attack.

Carlos identified the slain militiaman as Abraham Cutay who was set to graduate as Civilian Active Auxiliary.

Cutay was stationed in a military detachment that was attacked by the BIFF. Two of his companions were wounded, one of whom identified as Angel Varona.

The police and military said they have yet to verify the death of the BIFF rebels.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which has entered into peace negotiations with the government.

Yesterday, the PNP leadership reminded all its police commanders to review their defense plan, especially in defending police stations and vital installations, amid the communist rebels and BIFF attacks.

“We are reminding our field commanders to look at their camp defense plans and the guarding of vital installations in order to prevent these kinds of attack,” said Carlos.

Early this week, the Maasin police station in Iloilo was overran by communist rebels who ransacked its armory and communications room. On Wednesday, the local police scrambled to guard police stations and other establishments in North Cotabato after the BIFF attack.

Carlos said they are aware of different security situations in various areas such as those infested by communist rebels or those near the territory of Moro rebels and extremist groups.

This is the reason, he said, why there is a need for field commanders to know the level of worst-case scenario threats and come up with effective defense plan of the police stations, vital installations, and the community. (With reports from Francis T. Wakefield)