MANILA — Four more Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) men were killed in a series of encounters with pursuing government troops in Barangay Pusao, Shariff Saydona town, Maguindanao Saturday night, the military reported.
This brought the total number of BIFF dead since Friday night to 18.
Also recovered by the military following the 10 p.m. clash were four-high powered firearms.
Lt. Col. Willy Manalang, Marine Battalion Landing Team-8 commanding officer, said his troops engaged the group of Filipino terrorist Basit Usman.
“I sent a small-size patrol composed of the 63rd Force Recon Company led by Capt. Bernardo and the Special Operations Platoon 8 led by 1st Lt. Duliquez to track down the 20-man group of Usman. My troops surprised the enemy and engaged them in a firefight,” he added.
Employing fire and maneuver, the troops overwhelmed the bandits, forcing them to flee in disarray after 15 minutes of heavy firefight.
Marines seized an M-60 machine gun and one US M-14 rifle from the bandits.
Two of the four BIFF dead were left behind in the encounter site, one of them wearing a Special Action Force uniform.
“I believe that these bandits were among those who butchered the members of the 55th SAC (Special Action Company) in (Barangay) Tukanalipao (Mamasapano) last January. Despite their crimes, we will turn them over to the community leaders to be given decent Islamic burial,” Manalang said.
As the troops followed the blood traces left by the elusive group of Usman, the blocking elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 engaged the bandits a kilometer away in the same village at around 7:15 a.m. Sunday.
Lt. Col. Armando Custodio, Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 commanding officer, said that his security elements led by 1st Lt. Aljun Salinas chanced upon 30 BIFF bandits, triggering a heavy exchange of fires.
“My troops were in a vantage position and we rained bullets on the bandits, causing heavy casualties on their side. We engaged them in a running gun battle that lasted about an hour, after which they fled carrying their wounded and dead comrades,” he said.
Salinas and his men confiscated two high-powered firearms, including a US M-1 Garand Rifle and a US M-14 Rifle from the BIFF.
A notorious bomber, Usman, and five foreign terrorists are believed to be moving around the so-called “SPMS Box” in Maguindanao together with the group of Mohammad Ali Tambako, the leader of the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), a 30-man strong break-away group of the BIFF.