ZAMBOANGA CITY: Two army soldiers were wounded in a clash with the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The incident happened just a few hours before yesterday’s State of the Region Address in the Muslim autonomous region.
The soldiers were among a group of security officers who were scouring the area for improvised explosives in Shariff Saydona town, Maguindanao province.
Captain Jo Ann Petinglay, spokesperson for the 6th Infantry Division, told The Manila Times that at least 30 BIFF members attacked the two Philippine Army platoons tasked of clearing the area of explosives.
The fierce clash was said to have left an undetermined number of rebel casualties.
“The 6th Infantry Division condemns these attacks which create fear and terror among innocent civilians,” Petinglay said.
She also called on the local governments and former rebels groups Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to keep watch over the security situation in their areas and help the government in stopping terrorism by providing information to authorities.
“We are working closely with the police to trample these groups and we assure the public that the government will always be on top of the situation. We will never allow them to succeed,” she added.
The latest attack occurred just two days after two separate blasts left one civilian injured in Cotabato City, the seat of the Muslim autonomous region.
Earlier on Saturday, an explosion occurred along the highway in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the autonomous region. No one was reported hurt or killed in the blast. But a grenade attack later in the day in Cotabato province wounded 22-year-old civilian Raisma Baraquir. The attack targeted a dump truck that passed along Sinsuat Avenue, the military said.
The BIFF, which recently pledged allegiance with jihadist group ISIS, is fighting for Muslim independence in Mindanao.