AT least twelve people, including two mediamen, were hurt after a convoy of soldiers and mediamen hit a ‘booby trap’ early Saturday morning in a remote village in Maguindanao, military and police reports said.
Initial reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo, the military general headquarters in Manila, said the incident occurred at around 7:30am Saturday at Lower Salbu, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Military public information officer, Lt. Colonel Ramon Zagala, said the area where the explosions occurred was near the site of an encounter between government troops and members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Zagala said six soldiers and six civilians including a news crew of TV-5 were hurt in the blowing up of improvised explosive devices (IED) left behind by retreating BIFF members.
The TV-5 newsmen were identified as reporter Jeff Caparas and cameraman Adrian Bulatao. The television network reported on its website that Bulatao was in shock, but conscious, although in pain, while Caparas is also wounded, but was on his feet.
The convoy consisted of two pick-up vehicles, one of which belongs to TV-5, escorted by Simba Armoured Personnel Carriers from the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion.
The wounded soldiers and news crew were immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment before being airlifted.
Zagala said that three UH-1H or “Hueys” helicopters were sent to the headquarters of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion to pick-up the soldiers and civilians wounded in the IED explosions.
He added that government offensives will continue despite the explosions and the BIFF threat against the military.
Journalists covering the war in Maguindanao are embedded with the military or often tailing government troops in their operations or patrol.
Fighting between government security forces and BIFF started last Monday, a day after the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the annex that paved the way for a comprehensive peace agreement.
The 72-hour extension given by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines-MILF Adhoc Joint Action Group to the military and police to was to expire on Saturday.
Fighting between government forces and BIFF members has claimed the lives of 52 BIFF members, including 13 ‘child warriors’ and soldiers while more than a dozen combatants were injured in five days of fighting. Anthony Vargas and Al Jacinto