AFP to end offensive vs BIFF by weekend

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The military aims to flush out the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and Cotabato by the weekend to allow displaced residents to return to their homes.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said the clearing operations have been extended by three days starting yesterday to prevent the BIFF from reasserting influence in the areas.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. approved the extension during his meeting with troops of the Western Mindanao Command and the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao last Tuesday.

The military can still ask the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group for another extension if clearing operations are not completed by Saturday.

“We would like to accomplish the clearing operations as fast as we can so that we can bring normalcy to the affected communities,” Kakilala said in a press conference yesterday.

Kakilala also said the military aims to significantly reduce the capabilities of the BIFF within three months.

“We can decimate the capability of the BIFF. They should not have the space and time to organize tactical offensives against the government and to conduct terrorist acts like bombing of vital installations and hitting civilians,” he added.

More than 40,000 individuals or about 8,000 families have fled their homes because of the military’s offensives against the BIFF in Central Mindanao.

The military has activated Task Force Kalinga, a unit composed of military doctors, to provide medical services to the displaced residents.

Catapang has also met with Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of assistance to affected families.

However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed concern over the displacement of thousands of civilians in Maguindanao due to the hostilities and reminded all parties to the gun battle to respect human life and dignity.

Pascal Mauchle, head of ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said residents from the villages in Kalbugan and Buliok who were displaced early February fear returning to their homes because of the risk of explosive devices and uncertainty of the situation.

“Displacement, especially when it’s prolonged and repeated, uproots people from their normal lives and causes untold suffering,” he added.

ICRC said displaced families need food, clean water and access to sanitation. All injured or sick people, regardless of their religion, ethnic group, gender or political beliefs, must receive medical treatment.

The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross started to deliver food, drinking water and other relief items last week to some 20,000 people in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Meanwhile, the remains of three soldiers who died in the roadside bombing attack by Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu last Wednesday were flown to Zamboanga City yesterday and given funeral honors at military headquarters.

The soldiers were on a resupply convoy to deliver provisions when a bomb explosion signaled their ambush at Barangay Pansul and Panglayahan road in Patikul shortly before noon.

The slain soldiers were identified as 1Lt. Fernan James Magbanua, 1Lt. Emerson Somera and Sgt. Niel Daez.

Six of the wounded troopers were air evacuated to Camp Navarro General Hospital for further treatment. They are SSgt. Julieto Payumo, Pfc. Ramil Akiatan, Pfc. Jay-Ar Sumagang, Cpl. Carlos Baguio, Pfc. Samuel Quiniones and Pfc. Nasser Adian. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Roel Pareño

 

ABU SAYYAF AD HOC JOINT ACTION GROUP ARMED FORCES BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BARANGAY PANSUL AND PANGLAYAHAN CAMP NAVARRO GENERAL HOSPITAL CARLOS BAGUIO CENTRAL MINDANAO EMERSON SOMERA AND SGT ESMAEL MANGUDADATU
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