BIFF attack prompts closure of Maguindanao-North Cotabato highway
CAMP SIONGCO, MAGUINDANAO – A firefight erupted at 3 p.m. on Friday near a bridge in Maguindanao, forcing government forces to shut down the highway linking North Cotabato and Maguindanao for more than an hour.
“Fighting is still ongoing at this time,” Colonel Alfredo del Rosario, 602nd Infantry Brigade chief, told reporters in text messages at 3 p.m. on Friday.
He said to 10 armed men aboard a motorboat plying the river fired at soldiers manning checkpoints at the approach of Tunggol Bridge in Pagalungan town, Maguindanao and another team of soldiers from Bravo company of the 7th Infantry Battalion.
When soldiers pursued the gunmen, another band of armed group engaged them in a 15-minute firefight.
Del Rosario said the armed men belonged to the Islamic State-linked armed group, led by Gapang Sapal and under the group of Esmael Abdulmalik alias Abu Torayfe of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), in Barangay Tunggol.
One BIFF member under the Abu Torayfe faction of the BIFF, identified as Mohamid Kambilan, was arrested and was undergoing interrogation at the Army base.
Soldiers rushed three injured civilians living near the river bank to a hospital in Kabacan town, North Cotabato.
Recovered at the encounter site were two M-4 rifles, a Garand rifle, a cal. 45 pistol and several pieces of ammunition.
Del Rosario said the soldiers were responding to an intelligence report that the BIFF would transport three improvised bombs planned to be set off in Kabacan.
“The IEDs come from Sitio Kabasalan, Barangay Darampua, Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao and intended for Kabacan,” Del Rosario said, adding that this afternoon’s clash had foiled the bombing attempt.
The portion of a highway linking Pikit, North Cotabato and Pagalungan, Maguindanao had been opened at past 4 p.m.
Motorists were advised to avoid traveling at night between Kabacan and Midsayap, North Cotabato passing the towns of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal in Maguindanao.
Pursuit operations continue.
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