Army rushes to remove bombs planted by BIFF in Maguindanao
COTABATO CITY – Sporadic firefight continued Tuesday morning as Army soldiers had a major road section in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao, to clear it of landmines, following the weekend clashes with Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters (BIFF) rebels.
Up until early Tuesday afternoon, dozens of vehicles stood still to traffic along the the old Makar Road section in Datu Piang and Datu Salibo towns, as government troops tried to rid the Butalo Bridge of landmines planted by suspected BIFF guerrillas.
Commuters and motorists heard loud explosions, saying authorities told them those were part of efforts to detonate bombs planted along roadside by BIFF rebels.
Some stranded commuters said the two forces went mortar-to-mortar firing, as government forces pursued clearing operation, which apparently the BIFF guerrillas wanted to halt.
Bobby Benito of the peace group Mindanao People’s Caucus, said they were “stranded at the Butalo Bridge, where (military) clearing operation against the BIFF going on.
“We hear powerful explosions from here,” Benito had told the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier in the day.
Councilor Anwar Emblawa of Datu Abdullah Sangki said he was traveling from Midsayap, North Cotabato, when he became locked to heavy traffic in a part of Datu Piang and Datu Salibo towns.
“The road was temporarily closed to commuters from 10 a.m. due to sporadic firefight, a few meters from the highway. But owing to courteous and diplomatic way of asking for consideration, I ran the risk of passing, by tailing an Army truck with the permission of the commanding officer,” Emblawa said.
Sources at the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DPWH-ARMM) said a dredging contractor had requested the military for security assistance, when BIFF commanders purportedly halted the project.
The same sources, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak for their office, said “some parties were demanding for outright government settlement of road right-of-way payment.
This was confirmed earlier by Abu Misri Mama, the BIFF spokesperson, who said that their “comrades were being deprived of road-right-of-way payment.” SFM