Army lieutenant, 13 BIFF killed in Maguindanao clash

CAMP SIONGCO, MAGUINDANAO — An Army lieutenant and a senior leader of IS-linked Moro rebel group were killed in clashes Wednesday in Maguindanao province, raising the death toll to 21 rebels and two soldiers since fighting erupted on Sunday.

2Lt. Junibert Zunio of the 40th Infantry Battalion, died from bullet wounds after his platoon engaged about 15 heavily armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

A soldier was also killed on Monday in clashes in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

Zunio led soldiers from the 40th IB in blocking BIFF fighters fleeing from Army offensives in Datu Shariff Saydona, also in Maguindanao.

About 13 BIFF rebels were also killed in the clash, including its sub-leader identified as Mah Nanding alias Commander Marrox, who was believed to be involved in the murder of Special Action Force soldiers now known as SAF 44 in 2015.

“The number of BIFF killed was based on two-way radio conversations we intercepted from enemy side and from civilians and local officials,” Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said in a radio interview.

Encinas said ground troops recovered from the Pidsandawan encounter one dead BIFF rebel and 14 firearms that include four M-16 Armalite rifles, three M-14 rifles, two carbines, one Garand rifle, one Ultimax and three 12-gauge shotguns.

Citing reports from the field, Encinas said body parts litter the encounter site and could be those from slain BIFF rebels whose remains were carried by fleeing bandits.

He said 15 other Army troops were wounded so far in the gun battles.

On Wednesday, four roadside improvised bombs were found and disarmed by Army bomb experts in the boundary of Barangay Sepaka, Datu Paglas, and Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano, as government troops were conducting clearing operations.

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