(Updated 1:46 p.m.) KIDAPAWAN CITY  GMANews- One soldier died while two were wounded in an encounter between the military and suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members in Midsayap, Cotabato Monday morning.
 
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the encounter took place in barangays Malingao and Pulumugin.

Armed men also took several civilians as human shields, Hermoso added.

Mayor Romeo Arana said they are verifying reports that 15 teachers were held hostage by the rebels.

 
Wounded soldiers were rushed to Amado Diaz District Hospital in Midsayap.

North Cotabato 1st district board member Loreto Cabaya said he received information that there were civilians wounded in the attacke.
 
“I received text messages from my informants in the area that there were wounded civilians but as to the numbers I cannot ascertain it as of this time,” Cabaya told radio station dxMS in Cotabato City.

Hermoso said the fighting started early morning and peaked at about 8 a.m.

“Nagkaroon ng bakbakan kaninang umaga, at nag-withdraw sila toward different directions in small groups,” Hermoso said in an interview on dzBB radio.
 
He said some of the civilians taken as human shields included farmers and teachers.

Hermoso said the BIFF members divided into groups and simultaneously attacked the low-lying villages in Midsayap.
 
At least 50 BIFF members conducted the attack.
 
But Hermoso said the soldiers are continuing the pursuit operations against the BIFFmembers.

Four victims

AFP public affairs head Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said four victims were abducted in Midsayap but one was already released.
 
“Apparently, they didn’t realize that they were running towards the BIFF,” he said in a phone interview with GMA News Online. “But one was already released.”
 
Zagala said they are still verifying if the victims are teachers. He added that military are now conducting rescue operations for the three victims.
 
The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is in the midst of peace efforts with the government.
 
It is led by Amerik Umbra Kato, who had led attacks in Mindanao since 2008 when the Supreme Court thumbed down a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the MILF. 

Classes canceled in some areas in Midsayap 
 
Meanwhile, classes were canceled in some areas in Midsayap amid the fighting, Governor Emmylou Mendoza said.
 
In a statement, Mendoza also said she is “closely monitoring and coordinating” as well as validating information on the ground with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.
 
“We are now in full alert,” she said in a statement posted on the provincial government’s Facebook page.
 
She added the local government units are prioritizing the evacuees while the Department of Education canceled classes in some areas in Midsayap.
 
Citing initial reports reaching her, she said at least one had been wounded and several people were said to be hostage.
 
A separate post on the provincial government’s Facebook page said the local government is validating the number of civilians displaced by the fightingWilliamor Magbanua and Amanda Fernandez/KG/KBK, GMA News