COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attempted anew but failed to destroy a vital bridge in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao on Saturday night.
The 10-meter bridge in Barangay (village) Magaslong sustained minor cracks but remained intact after an improvised explosive device exploded, Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said.
Hermoso said residents living near the bridge pointed at two BIFF rebel leaders, identified as Abu Sumaya and Montaser, as the ones who planted the improvised explosive device fashioned from two 60 mm mortars.
The group of the Sumaya and Montaser is believed to have bombed in June the longer Magaslong bridge, a few hundred meters from a smaller bridge that the BIFF wanted to destroy Saturday night.
Hermoso said the mobile phone-detonated IED did not cause major damage to the bridge.
Hermoso added that the rebels wanted the disable the bridge to prevent military hardware from going to Datu Piang and Shariff Saydona Mustapha towns that the BIFF had been harassing since June.
“Once the bridge is disabled, we will have a hard time bringing our agricultural products to other parts of Maguindanao,” Sumail Kasim, a farmer from Datu Piang’s agriculture area.
Hermoso said the Army withheld its offensive against the bandit groups in deference to the observance of the fasting month.
“It is very unfortunate that the BIFF continues to harass Army detachments, which may result in military operations that would disrupt the fasting month,” Hermoso said.
According to Engr. James Mlok, chief of the second district engineering office in Maguindanao, the two bridges remained passable to vehicles.
Mlok could only appeal to guerillas to spare major bridges as these have nothing to do with their ideological struggle.
“I’m appealing to armed men to refrain from destroying government infrastructures built to make the lives of Moro people convenient,” he said after inspecting the bridge Sunday morning.
“Our brother and sister Muslims who will suffer and become inconvenient if roads and bridges are damaged,” he said.
The bombing of the bridge in Datu Piang was preceded by a mortar shelling by suspected BIFF guerrillas on detachments of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, also in Maguindanao, which is part of the guerrillas’ offensive against government forces aimed at disrupting the Mindanao peace process.