AFP sends more troops to go after the BIFF
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao, Philippines – The military said on Thursday it had mobilized more troops to various areas of Maguindanao and neighboring provinces against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division based here, said that based on the initial assessment, the BIFF’s strength was about 300 men, who have broken up into smaller groups.
“We really need to take concrete actions because the number of people affected by the terroristic activities of this rebel group is growing,” Petinglay said.
She said the military was also banking on the help of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the operation against the BIFF.
“We hope our counterparts in the MILF will help us if they are sincere in talking peace,” Petinglay said.
“So we are also urging the MILF to help not just by repositioning their forces but also by providing information most especially on the identities and location of BIFF rebels that are hiding in MILF-influenced communities,” she said.
Minimal collateral damage
With fears that the all-out war would displace more residents, Petinglay said the directive from the headquarters was clear and that was for collateral damage to be zero or minimal.
“We are taking necessary preparations to ensure that communities will not be affected,” she said.
Petinglay said the military had positioned its hardware, including tanks and howitzers, in preparation for the assault.
But she did not say which specific areas have been targeted.
“After the military forced the BIFF to flee its temporary encampment in Kabasalan (in Pikit, North Cotabato), they have now scattered after suffering heavy casualties,” Petinglay said.
“The challenge now is to flush them out or pick them out from these communities or marshy areas,” she added.
Petinglay said the military has been working to bring back normalcy to communities affected by BIFF atrocities by clamping down on the group.
During clashes involving BIFF men that began February 13, hundreds of residents from interior barangays (villages) of Pikit and nearby Pagalungan, Maguindanao, fled.
Allison Lopez, communications officer of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that 2,600 families came from Pikit town alone.
“Some of the affected civilians are staying at the evacuation centers for almost a month now. Local officials can no longer sustain their needs so we came in,” Lopez said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.