One militiaman was wounded as government troops clashed with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Kabacan, North Cotabato, early Monday, authorities said.

Soldiers, militiamen, and police clashed with an “armed lawless group” led by a certain commander Kadatuan, in Brgy. Lower Paatan, around 6:30 a.m., Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao, commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion, said he sent 30 soldiers after police sought military assistance over reports that BIFF members were harassing farmers in the area.

“May isang nagko-complain na community because more or less 20 BIFF [members] ay nagsasaka raw ng mga lupa ng may lupa. Because of that sinamahan namin ang police… at around 6 o’clock e binaril ‘yung mga tropa, wala kaming nagawa kundi lumaban,” Hao told reporters.

A militiaman, identified as Romeo Pizarro of the Civilian Active Auxiliary, suffered a bullet wound to the leg during the 15-minute fighting, Senior Supt. Roque Alcantara, North Cotabato Provincial Police director, said.

It was was the first time for security forces to get involved in a clash with the BIFF since the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed their “framework agreement” for peace last week.

Hao and Alcantara said the fighting had nothing to do with the recently-signed agreement, which the BIFF strongly opposes.

The BIFF was formed by Ameril Umbra Kato in 2010 after failing to settle disputes with the MILF leadership. (John Roson)

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