BIFF attacks farm in Midsayap town
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2013 - 2:49pm

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines  - Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters pounded with 60mm mortars a farming enclave in Midsayap town Monday night before fleeing deep into the vast Liguasan Marsh to elude  soldiers chasing them since Saturday.

Senior Supt. Danny Peralta, director of the North Cotabato police, said the bandits apparently targeted a detachment of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit in Barangay Baliki in Midsayap, but the mortar rounds fell short of range and landed in surrounding farms.

No one was reported killed or injured in the bombardment, but the incident sent villagers fleeing for their lives.

The BIFF bandits had only ceased from shelling Barangay Baliki when soldiers returned fire with 105 Howitzer Cannons, forcing the former to scamper to different directions.

Villagers have confirmed seeing BIFF bandits fleeing in groups to swampy areas at the border of Maguindanao and North Cotabato since noontime Monday, flushed out by a counter-offensive by combined members of the Army’s 40th and 7th Infantry Battalions.

The military’s counterattack was launched after BIFF bandits showed force last Saturday dawn in farming enclaves in the boundary of Barangays Pagangan and Nalapaan, in North Cotabato’s Aleosan and Pikit towns, respectively, and tried to breach through a portion of the Cotabato-Davao Highway.

The local government of Aloesan, the town’s former mayor and now provincial board member Loreto Cabaya, and representatives from the office of Gov. Lala Taliño-Mendoza have  been distributing relief supplies to thousands of  Moro and Christian villagers displaced by the BIFF attacks over the weekend.

Mendoza has appealed to the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help local officials to prevent bandits from attacking farming enclaves in Pikit, Aleosan and Midsayap.

Mendoza said while the BIFF is not covered by the 1997 government-MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, members of the joint ceasefire committee can cooperate in protecting non-combatants from criminal gangs and terrorists.

Mendoza has been initiating since Saturday backchannel dialogues with influential Moro religious and traditional leaders in the province as part of her efforts to defuse tension in areas vulnerable to bandit attacks.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they will station uniformed combatants in the affected barangays to prevent the bandits from coming back.

“All of our security efforts are being coordinated closely with the joint ceasefire committee, the LGUs and the office of the provincial governor of North Cotabato,” Hermoso said. John Unson

ALEOSAN AND MIDSAYAP ALEOSAN AND PIKIT BARANGAY BALIKI BARANGAYS PAGANGAN AND NALAPAAN CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES CITIZENS ARMED FORCES GEOGRAPHICAL UNIT COORDINATING COMMITTEE COTABATO-DAVAO HIGHWAY MENDOZA NORTH COTABATO
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