As many as 200 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are reportedly occupying the central market of Datu Paglas in Mindanao.
Suspected members of the group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), stormed a town on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines on Saturday, according to media reports, forcing several residents to evacuate as the military set off road blockades and leading to the area.
As many as 200 BIFF fighters reportedly entered Datu Paglas, a town in Maguindanao province in Mindanao, on Saturday, according to state television PTV.
PTV said a “leadership conflict” prompted the group of fighters, led by a Commander Solaiman Tudin, to take over the town.
Video footage posted on MAX FM, a radio station in the neighboring town of Tacurong, showed government troops blocking a highway leading to Datu Paglas.
Another video clip showed thick black smoke rising from the town, as some residents were seen fleeing the area.
Esmael Mangudadatu, a member of Congress and former governor of Maguindanao, told the radio station that the main concern now is to ensure the safety of civilians.
A military spokesman in the region, identified as Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Baldomar, was also quoted by Brigada News FM, another radio station, as saying that the militants had occupied the Datu Paglas market.
The BIFF is a group of armed fighters opposed to the peace agreement in the southern Philippines between the main rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the central government.
According to the military, some of the BIFF fighters reportedly fought with the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf in the 2017 siege of Marawi, which lasted five months.
Some of the BIFF members reportedly also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
Lots of details soon.