SIX soldiers were wounded as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) launched its third attack in a week in Maguindanao province in southern Mindanao.
The BIFF last week lost its commander Umbra Kato, who reportedly died from hypertension.
The assault on outposts in Barangay Magsalong in Datu Piang town and Barangay Sambolawan in Datu Salibo town came a day after the BIFF reportedly led by its new leader Sheik Esmail/Ismael Abubakar alias Commander Bungos harassed the Philippine Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade stationed in Barangay Kabingi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on Wednesday.
The wounded soldiers in Datu Salibo, who were not immediately identified, were holding a temporary position when fired upon by the BIFF using 40mm M203 grenade launchers around 7 p.m. on Thursday.
On Friday, around 5:25 a.m., a loud blast believed to be caused an improvised explosive device (IED) made of 60mm exploded 30 meters away from the 22nd Mechanized Company in Barangay Magaslong, Datu Piang.
Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also on Thursday directed Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, to file a criminal case against Bungos who, reports said, led the twin attacks.
Catapang said Bungos and his men must be held responsible for the injuries sustained by government troops and for the anxiety felt by ordinary civilians who were affected by the assaults.
The AFP chief called on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to prevent members of the BIFF–a breakaway group from the MILF– from entering their communities.
He enjoined the MILF to help the government forces in flushing out the BIFF fighters who, Catapang said, are spoiling the peace process in Mindanao.
Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, AFP spokesman, in a news briefing on Friday said the more than a month all-out offensive against the BIFF saw the rebel group splintering into small groups and shifting strategies by, for example, launching pocket harassments.
Quoting reports from the field, Kakilala said at least 180 BIFF members were killed, 69 wounded and 12 captured during the all-out offensive.
These setbacks, the AFP spokesman added, cut down to 120 the number of the BIFF bandits.