BIFF bandits attack Maguindanao town

Roel Pareño, John Unson (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Around 50 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked Datu Piang town shortly before midnight on Thursday.

Lt. Col. Alaric Avelino delos Santos, Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the bandits initially attacked the detachment of the Charlie Company of the 6th Infantry Battalion (IB).

“Our troops retaliated and forced the BIFF to retreat. During their escape, they burned an unguarded police patrol car,” Delos Santos said.

The military said the gunmen, who went on a two-hour rampage, also indiscriminately fired on houses of villagers, forcing residents to scamper for safety.

The bandits fled after reinforcements from the police and military arrived.

Except for the police car, no other property was destroyed.

“Authorities are on top of the situation. Normalcy in the area was restored after our troops flushed them out,” Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, 6th Infantry Division commander, said.

Uy denied reports that the bandits also torched the Sta. Teresita church.

Lt. Col. Anhouvic Atilano, 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said the perpetrators are followers of Motorola, a henchman of Imam Karialan, leader of one of three factions of the BIFF.

Atilano, citing information from villagers, said the BIFF was behind the atrocity to create the impression that it remains a force amid the surrender of almost 200 of its members in recent months.

Manhunt

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas directed Special Action Force commandos to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police to join the manhunt for the suspects.

“The police will file criminal charges against those terrorists responsible for the attack and burning of our patrol car,” Sinas said.

He assured residents of Datu Piang that intensified security measures are in place to prevent a similar incident.

Act of terror

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said that the incident is ”no prelude to another Marawi siege,” referring to the attack of Maute militants in the city in 2017.

“It was a clear act of terror perpetrated by the BIFF. Things like this happen every now and then in Maguindanao,” Gapay told an online press briefing.

”Another Marawi is highly improbable at this point in time. We have learned the lessons of Marawi. We can consider what happened as an isolated case,” he added.

Gapay said the armed capability of the BIFF is on a decline, but the group is always looking for an opportune time to attack.

He urged residents to continue to cooperate with security forces.

”This calls for renewed vigilance... for everyone because addressing terrorism is a concern of everyone,” Gapay said.

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman condemned the ”brazen and senseless” attack even as he lauded government troopers for their quick response.

Hataman said the police and military foiled what could have been another Marawi incident.

As this developed, in Lanao del Sur, six members of the Maute group surrendered to the 82nd IB under Lt. Col. Rafman Altre in Piagapo town.

The militants, who were accompanied by local officials and religious leaders, turned over their guns. – Emmanuel Tupas, Edu Punay, Romina Cabrera

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