Soldier killed, 4 hurt in latest clash with BIFF in Maguindanao
COTABATO CITY — A soldier was killed while four of his companions were injured in yet another improvised bomb blast by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, on Saturday.
The slain soldier, belonging to the 7th Infantry battalion, was among a group of soldiers conducting clearing operations in a remote village of Datu Salibo, when suspected BIFF men set off a cellphone-detonated bomb Saturday morning.
The 7th IB is one of the two battalions surrounding BIFF lairs in the so called “SPMS box” or the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Piang), Mamasapano and Salibo.
Capt. Jo-Anne Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the soldiers have entered the perimeter of BIFF bailiwick in Barangay Tee where the BIFF planted several booby traps.
Military sources said more than 100 IEDs have been recovered in the perimeter of BIFF territory in the villages of Tea and Sambolawan, all in Datu Salibo, since last week following air and ground assaults.
To date, three soldiers have been killed since the fighting began on Feb. 5 after the BIFF torched construction equipment working on flood control dredging project in Barangay Butalo. At least 17 other soldiers were slightly wounded, including an Army captain.
Petinglay, citing information from local residents, has said more than 30 BIFF men have been killed both in air and ground offensives but admitted the information is still being validated as no bodies of slain bandits have been recovered.
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID chief, said in a statement condemned the BIFF’s use of improvised bombs.
Petinglay said despite the danger of booby traps, the Army would continue clearing operations to capture the BIFF lair and allow the continuation of flood control project.
The BIFF camp is located in Maguindanao marshland which has been dried up due to drought.
Petinglay said the BIFF has been using roadside bombs to divert military operations in Datu Salibo. Two improvised bombs went off near the national highway in Aleosan, North Cotabato, on Saturday.
“They have brought the war zone to civilian areas,” Petinglay said even as she appealed for people’s vigilance. The roadside bombings blamed by the military to the outlawed group also claimed the lives of civilians in Datu Saudi Ampatuan that killed Datu Salibo town treasurer and three others.
Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said his fighters have stopped their attacks for now to rest. “Once we recover, we will strike again,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone in the vernacular.
Datu Salibo was quiet Sunday but the displaced families, number about 2,500, remained in evacuation centers.
Aside from roadside bombings, the BIFF also shifted to deployment of fake IEDs like the one found in Datu Saudi Ampatuan highway on Friday.
A look-alike IED was seen by motorists behind the highway, forcing police to close the lone road network to motorists for about an hour.
Mama denied his group was behind the roadside bombings but admitted his group attacked a militia detachment in Aleosan town, a town next to Datu Salibo in the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.
Nobody was hurt in that attack. SFM
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