Published On : Wed, Jun 21st, 2017

School children taken hostage in Phillipines

Representational Pic

Terrorists of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) group, occupied a primary school and took hostages in a southern Philippine village authorities said.

Hundreds of gunmen initially attacked a lightly guarded military outpost at dawn, with many withdrawing but about 30 then taking over the school and using civilians as human shields, the military said.

“As of now they are in the school holding the civilians. They are using them as human shields,” Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesman for the army division with responsibility for the area, told AFP news service over the phone.

He said the gunmen had planted improvised bombs around the school.

Captain Encinas said he did not know how many hostages had been taken, and did not confirm if these included children.

The unrest occurred in Pigkawayan, a farming town about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Marawi city where fighters linked to the ISIS group have been battling troops for a month in a conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Armed forces spokesman Restituto Padilla earlier said the attackers on Wednesday belonged to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), one of four groups in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao that have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Local police said the BIFF attack may have been intended to help the terrorists in Marawi by distracting the military.

Mr Padilla said the gunmen attacked the outpost at daybreak, then exchanged fire with troops in the morning before retreating in a hit-and-run assault typical of BIFF fighters.

“It’s already resolved. The enemy has withdrawn… they failed,” Mr Padilla said late on Wednesday morning.

However about six hours later Captain Encinas reported the hostage crisis at the school. Mr Padilla then appeared on television and confirmed terrorists were occupying the school.