Thu, Jun 22, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Philippine school stormed by rebels

‘NOT KIDNAPPERS’:A BIFF spokesman said civilians captured when they entered a school would not be held, but moved from harm’s way

Reuters, MANILA

The Philippine military said militants who had holed up in a primary school in the south early yesterday had retreated after a gunbattle with troops, but were holding some civilians hostage.

There was no word of casualties in the incident at Pigcawayan, which is about 190km south of Marawi, where fighting between government troops and Islamic State group-linked militants has entered its fifth week.

No students were taken hostage at the school, said Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, discounting reports that some children were being held.

He said the militants had retreated from the school and troops were chasing them.

Military spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas said the militants, who call themselves the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), were holding some civilians hostage, but he was not sure how many.

“Definitely, they are holding hostages, that’s why our soldiers are having difficulty because they are using them as human shields,” Encinas said.

Police said about 300 armed men stormed the school early yesterday.

However, Encinas said later only 30 militants were involved.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said that the militants had taken civilians to a safe place, away from any crossfire, and did not intend to hold them hostage.

Asked if they would be freed, Mama said: “Yes. We’re not kidnappers.”

Padilla said the incident at Pigcawayan was not related to the fighting in Marawi.

“This has come from a group that has long committed harassment,” he said.

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