Civilians flee as Philippines soldiers dislodge 200 (hungry?) Islamist militants who seized town market – media
Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) seized the public market of Datu Paglas, located on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, on Saturday morning, prompting the deployment of military and police units to the area.
The group opposes a peace agreement between Muslim rebels, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the central government. Some members of BIFF have also reportedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
Hundreds of residents fled the town, but some civilians were prevented from leaving by the militants, who used a truck to block a highway leading to the market, according to local media.
Photographs and videos posted on Twitter show villagers making a hasty exit using motorbikes, vans, and animal-drawn carts.
Hundreds of villagers have fled early Saturday morning to safer grounds as Army and BIFF terrorists clash at the town proper of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao (Photos by Amiel C. Cagayan) | via @keithbacongcopic.twitter.com/VBGhfaJVTx— Manila Bulletin News (@manilabulletin) May 8, 2021
Kita ang mga residente sa Datu Paglas, Maguindanao na tumatakbo palayo sa isang palengke ngayong Sabado ng umaga matapos ang ulat na nakaengkuwentro doon ng militar ang nasa 100 na miyembro ng Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). (Video courtesy: Norhaina Omal Pangilayan) pic.twitter.com/qqUkvUGkyt— ABS-CBN News (@ABSCBNNews) May 8, 2021
According to several reports, BIFF fighters reportedly opened fire as the military cordoned off the market. Purported footage of the skirmish shows soldiers taking cover near an armored vehicle as bursts of gunfire can be heard.
🇵🇭 #BREAKING: More or less than 100 BIFF terrorists have reportedly occupied the town center of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, the #Philippines Saturday. Residents from the area already evacuated. Firefight between the gov't forces and the terrorists are still ongoing. 🎬 Ronda FM pic.twitter.com/yGczSmeldg— CCTV Asia Pacific (@CCTVAsiaPacific) May 8, 2021
Other accounts, citing military officials, said the militants fired warning shots at civilians, and that the military returned fire. The firefight reportedly did not result in any injuries.
It’s still unclear why the militants raided the market. A military spokesman said it appears that BIFF members wanted to get food from the market, but their presence frightened residents who reported them to authorities. The militants then seized the market after fearing retaliation.
According to local media, the fighters eventually left the market, but operations were ongoing. Troops reportedly recovered several improvised explosive devices near the highway that had been blocked.
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