KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines—Gunmen belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) started to move again, wounding three civilians in an attack in Pikit town, North Cotabato province, on Thursday.
Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, later confirmed the group was poised to launch more attacks but denied these were connected to or in support of the attack on Zamboanga City by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction of Nur Misuari.
Capt. Tony Bulao, spokesperson for the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said a rifle-fired grenade from the BIFF wounded civilians Marcus Esmail, 40; Nhorjana Esmail, 18; and Amirah Usman, 20, in Sitio Lamak in Pikit.
Bulao said the civilians sustained shrapnel wounds in different parts of their bodies when an M-79 grenade landed and exploded on the roof the house they were sleeping in on Thursday night.
“The victims are now confined at Cruzado Hospital, also in the town center of Pikit,” Bulao said.
Bulao said the M-79 round might have been intended for but missed a paramilitary detachment near the house of the victims.
“The best thing that civilians who are living near military checkpoints should do is to temporarily leave their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire, especially in North Cotabato,” Mama said when asked about the civilian victims in Thursday’s attack.
Mama said the BIFF was expected to mount more attacks although these had nothing to do with the MNLF’s attack on Zamboanga City.
“If we will attack, this will be because of our struggle and jihad. It only coincided with the attacks of the MNLF,” he told the Inquirer by phone.
Mama did not categorically confirm the reported alliance between his group and the MNLF, but said the BIFF and the MNLF had different frameworks in the pursuit of their struggle for an independent Bangsamoro state in Mindanao.
“We both want independence but the BIFF wants the implementation of Islamic law,” he said.
Mama said the BIFF was waging a sustained campaign to achieve its goal even if that “independent state governed by Islamic laws will be as small as a barangay.”
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said the provincial government was not taking for granted the threat posed by the BIFF, and she gave assurance that security forces were working to ensure the safety of the people.
“Government troops as well as other agencies are on the lookout in our area of responsibility. We do not take for granted any information that reaches our office,” Mendoza said.
The BIFF was formed by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) field commander Ameril Umba Kato.
Kato broke away from the MILF over disagreements with fellow rebel leaders on the conduct of the peace process with the government in 2008.
He had since accused MILF chair Murad Ebrahim and other former comrades of selling out to the administration of President Aquino.