Military issues conflicting reports on 'spillover of violence' in Maguindanao town

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(CNN Philippines, September 2) — As the firefights in the war-torn city of Marawi City drag on, the military issued conflicting reports on the spillover of violence in Maguindanao.

"Ang nakikita natin, yung ating kalaban, they really have some ground in other areas," said Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. on Saturday.

[Translation: We see that our enemies really have some ground in other areas.]

Galvez confirmed President Rodrigo Duterte's assessment on the possible spillover of violence in Maguindanao.

"We agree with the President na talagang yung Maute-ISIS group, their influence has also extended to Southern Mindanao. That's why the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) are now doing their best to contain the situation in Maguindanao," Galvez told CNN Philippines.

The WesMinCom confirmed there had been clashes between the MILF, who is siding with the government, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao, who like the Maute have allied themselves with ISIS.

"Yung BIFF na nag-pledge ng allegiance sa Daesh under (Abu) Toraype, yun ang hina-hunt natin ngayon," Galvez said.

[Translation: We are currently hunting the BIFF fighter who pledged allegiance to Daesh under Abu Toraype.]

READ: Duterte: Martial law stays amid possible spillover of terror threat

President Duterte on Friday said he has considered lifting martial law in Mindanao but a possible spillover of the terror crisis held him back.

"I was thinking that we could, you know, lift it earlier. But the way it looks, parang may spillover na sa ARMM eh. Sa Buldon (It seems there's a spillover in Buldon in ARMM)," Duterte said.

On Sunday, Duterte said there were skirmishes every day.

"I don't know this thing developed, but...I have that by the end of the year to contain all of these things," he said.

Buldon is a town in Maguindanao over 130 kilometers south of Marawi City, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur and battleground of government troops and terrorists for more than three months. Both are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Conflicting reports

Lt. Col. Jun Pulitod of the 37th Infantry Batallion and 6th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega both said their intelligence-gathering efforts yielded no reports of spillover of violence in Buldon.

Dela Vega said he directed his troops in Buldon to intensify their security operation to ensure that the town will remain free of terrorists.

Pulitod also told CNN Philippines that based on reports of barangay captains and MILF field commanders in Buldon, there have been no sightings of BIFF or Maute fighters there. 

"Actually dito sa area ng Buldon, walang terror group na nandito, maliban sa dati, pasulpot-sulpot na armed lawless group...Walang BIFF dito, walang BIFF sa Buldon," Pulitod said.

[Translation: There are no terror groups here in Buldon, except the occasional armed lawless groups way back...There is no BIFF here in Buldon.]

Buldon Mayor Abolais Manalao, after holding a Municipal Peace and Order Council on Saturday, also said there have been no sightings of either Maute or BIFF in the area, but they are still continuing their search following Duterte's remark.

Manalao added the army set up new checkpoints in Buldon to help secure the area.

Buldon police chief Insp. Sandro Ampad, however, said members of the BIFF are seen in Buldon from time to time.

Meanwhile, the Galvez said he supports Duterte's statement that he cannot lift martial law in Mindanao yet due to the terror threats.

Martial rule was extened by Congress, from July 23 to Dec. 31.

He also said they are still intensifying their fight against the terrorist group with continued airstrikes in areas near the Lanao Lake.

Galvez, however, said they will still not bomb mosques even if these are Maute strongholds.

On Friday, one soldier was killed and four others were wounded in clashes with the Maute group during Eid'l Adha.

This story was updated on September 3.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producer Ver Marcelo and Cotabato-based journalist Erwin Cabilbigan contributed to this story.