IT’S A STORY
200 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are said to live in the Datu Paglas Central Market in Mindanao.
Suspected members of the group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), seized a town in the southern Philippines from Mindanao on Saturday, according to media reports, forcing more residents to evacuate as troops set up roads and crossed the area.
About 200 BIFF soldiers reportedly entered Datu Paglas, a town in the Maguindanao region of Mindanao, earlier on Saturday, state-run PTV reported. Some reports put the number of fighters between 80 to 100.
PTV said a “leadership dispute” prompted a group of militants, led by Commander Solaiman Tudin, to seize the town.
Video recordings of MAX FM, a radio station in the nearby city of Tacurong, showed government officials closing the main road to Datu Paglas.
One video showed black smoke billowing out of the town, while other people were seen fleeing the area.
Esmael Mangudadatu, a member of Congress and former Maguindanao ambassador, told the radio station that his main concern was to protect civilians. Many locals are preparing for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
A local military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Baldomar, was also quoted on Brigada News FM as saying that militants had entered the Datu Paglas market.
The BIFF is a militant group opposed to a peace deal in the southern Philippines between the main Muslim terrorist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the central government.
According to the military, some BIFF fighters are said to have fought alongside Maute and Abu Sayyaf in marawi tour for 2017, which lasted five months.
Other BIFF members also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).