Additional Army brigade deployed to Maguindanao
A big number of evacuees from conflict-stricken villages in Maguindanao are elderly women and children.
Philstar.com/John Unson

Additional Army brigade deployed to Maguindanao

John Unson (Philstar.com) - March 27, 2021 - 6:12pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — A brigade-size Army contingent from Luzon is arriving in central Mindanao to help the 6th Infantry Division neutralize the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the region.

The BIFF, operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is tagged in all deadly bombings and other terror attacks in central Mindanao’s adjoining Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces since 2014.

Major Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Saturday the brigade’s advance party has arrived, its three battalions for deployment in areas vulnerable to BIFF attacks to follow soon.

The 6th ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, parts of Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Cotabato, Tacurong and Koronadal.

Around 10,000 families got displaced by recurring Army-BIFF clashes in Maguindanao since March 18, preceded by the surrender in batches of 81 of its members to the 6th ID from September 2020 to February this year.

“This group is trying to create the impression that it is still capable of perpetrating terror attacks after the surrender of so many members in recent months,” Uy told reporters Saturday.

Senior members of different municipal peace and order councils in Maguindanao said 14 BIFF terrorists perished in the recent hostilities in the province that started in Barangay Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town on March 18 and, subsequently, spilled over to nearby farming enclaves.

Local officials told reporters Saturday four more BIFF gunmen perished in an encounter with soldiers in Barangay Saniag in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last Thursday.

“We are guarding against possible retaliation by the BIFF for its heavy losses in its latest encounters with our troops,” Uy said.

He said a soldier was slightly wounded in the gunfight in Barangay Saniag, a highland area in Ampatuan town.

Uy said the 6th ID is now helping the Bangsamoro regional government provide relief interventions to thousands of evacuees from conflict-stricken areas in Maguindanao.

The Army brigade arriving anytime soon to support 6th ID’s peacekeeping missions shall come from Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, where personnel of its three battalions underwent a six-month retraining after a long assignment in Sulu.

“It will also participate in local peace-building programs in support of the peace efforts of the national government and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Uy said.

The BIFF is not covered by all peace and security agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front whose chairman, Hadji Murad Ebrahim, is BARMM’s appointed chief minister.

“Our main concern now is the return of thousands of evacuees to their homes, displaced by BIFF incursions. The brigade coming in will play a big role in securing areas prone to BIFF attacks,” Uy said.

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