ON GUARD. An Army soldier watches over their position in the ongoing conflict against Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the Shariff Aguak-Datu Saudi Ampatuan-Datu Salibo-Mamasapano area in Maguindanao province. The ongoing clashes entered its fifth day on Monday. (July 29, 2019). (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

COTABATO CITY – Nine members of the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have so far been killed in ongoing clashes with the military in Maguindanao, a military official said Monday.

“Our information was based on the information relayed to us by local officials and from radio communications monitored by our ground troops,” said Major Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), on Monday.

Encinas said a soldier, identified as Sgt. Ahmad Mahmood of the Army’s 601st Brigade, was also killed in the ongoing clashes.

“Three other BIFF radicals and an Army soldier were also reported injured so far in the fighting,” Encinas added.

The conflict began on July 25 after several sightings of massing up of BIFF elements under Abu Toraife in the so-called “SPMS box”,  situated near the 220,000-hectare Liguasan marshland in Maguindanao.

The SPMS box is a military term referring to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Salibo and Mamasapano, which has become a jump-off point of the BIFF in launching planned attacks against military and police installations in the province.

Air and ground assaults were launched in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato that the BIFF traverses through the channels of the huge Pagalungan River separating the two provinces.

Currently, close to 500 families living near the border of the two provinces have fled to safer grounds so as not to be caught in the clashes, following the death of an elderly woman and the wounding of her husband and grandson during the July 25 offensives.

The military operation is still ongoing in the marshland of Maguindanao as of this posting. (PNA)