Intel agents track down BIFF as offensive ends
John Unson ( - April 4, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The military on Friday dismantled security roadblocks on highways criss-crossing Maguindanao province but intelligence operatives will continue to scour town centers to monitor presence of Moro bandits.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, on Saturday said they have deescalated their offensives against the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in seven Maguindanao towns, but Ranger teams and Reconnaissance experts will continue to track down BIFF forces that have fragmented into smaller bands.

"Our operations now would tactically be 'focused operations,' meant to continue decimating the capability of this group to launch attacks while, at the same, time ensuring the tranquility in areas where they once had encampments that are now secured by government forces," he said.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu ordered on Wednesday the mayors in seven towns where the military and the BIFF have had a four-week face-off to immediately act on any detected presence of bandits in their respective municipalities.

Mangudadatu, chairman of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council, said the seven mayors are empowered to initiate police actions against bandits in their towns as provided for by the Local Government Code.

Three soldiers—Cpl. Gracia, Pfcs. Catayong and Lazo—were injured Tuesday when BIFF bandits shot with shoulder-fire 40 millimeter projectiles a small building of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Barangay Pagatin in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

The building, constructed by the DSWD in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is where relief workers attend to the needs of thousands of evacuees in school campuses nearby.

The grenades, launched from east of the building, landed on nearby positions of soldiers guarding the barangay.

Local officials said the bombardment was an apparent retaliation for the deaths of 12 BIFF, among them senior bandit gang leaders Yusoph Abisalih, most known as "Bisaya," and siblings Norodin and Salahudin Indong, who were killed by soldiers in running firefights last week.

RELATED: Kin of slain gang leader warn of BIFF revenge plot

Army intelligence officials said there are also indications that the BIFF was responsible for the foiled attempt to set off an improvised explosive device along a busy section of the Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City.

The improvised explosive device, fashioned from a live 60 millimeter mortar rigged with a blasting device that can be detonated from a distance, was identical with what the BIFF had used in recent bombings in Central Mindanao, including last year's deadly attacks in North Cotabato's adjoining Pikit, Kabacan and Mlang towns.

Pangilinan said their units scattered in Central Mindanao are now initiating backdoor dialogues with the business, religious and political communities to maximize public cooperation in preventing possible retaliations by the BIFF.

Pangilinan said Army Ranger teams have continued patrolling in secluded areas in the seven Maguindanao towns where soldiers and BIFF bandits met in more than 20 gunfights in the past five weeks.

Pangilinan said Army units that fought BIFF forces in recent weeks are now helping in the relief operations of the Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the office of the provincial governor.

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