Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao—Army troops retook Datu Paglas, Maguindanao Saturday morning, hours after heavily armed extremists occupied the town center.
The military launched air and ground offensives on some 100 armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), forcing them to withdraw.
Lt. Colonel John Paul Baldomar, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said government forces regained control of the Datu Paglas Public Market by 9:00 a.m.
“We are now in control of Public Market of Datu Paglas, (and) clearing operations are in order,” Baldomar said.
Local officials said some 5,000 people were displaced by the heavy exchange of gunfire between the rebel group and government forces.
Baldomar said no casualty had been reported on the side of the government forces, adding that possible enemy casualty could not be determined yet from sketchy radio messages.
Baldomar said the soldiers found four improvised bombs around the marketplace left by fleeing rebels which were promptly defused.
Abu Jihad, claiming to be a BIFF spokesman, said about 150 guerrillas of the Kagi Karialan sub-group came to Datu Paglas without the intent of placing the town under siege.
“Our freedom fighters were there to rest and were about to return to our camps when soldiers arrived and fired at us. We were forced to return fire,” Abu Jihad said in Maguindanaon.
The group’s leader, a certain Undo Sulayman, is said to be Karialan’s son-in-law.
Sources said Sulayman, a resident of Datu Paglas, had been at odds with local leaders.