Manila: Four members of Muslim rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and a government soldier were killed, one soldier wounded and 15 civilians taken hostage in a skirmish in southern Philippines Monday.
Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF militants first swooped down on an outpost of police volunteers at Rangaban village, Midsayap, a town in North Cotabato province, around 2.20 a.m. local time.
He told Xinhua in a phone interview that troops from the army's 40th Infantry Battalion responded shortly after the attack and caught up with the BIFF men at Tugal village, also in Midsayap town.
"Sensing that the government troops are superior in numbers, the BIFF attackers splintered into smaller groups and sporadic firefights ensued," Hermoso said, adding that the BIFF men withdrew towards the Mindanao river.
In the process, the spokesman said the BIFF men abducted 11 farmers and four teachers and used them as human shield against the pursuing troops.
Twelve of the civilians have been released as of Monday afternoon while sporadic firing continued, according to Hermoso.