COTABATO CITY: The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been immobilized, contained and may soon surrender to face the charges leveled against them, the Army here said.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the “weak” BIFF forces have been contained in the village of Ganta, a well-fortified enclave of BIFF guerillas who are the subject of massive police and military operations in Maguindanao.
“Our forces have practically surrounded their location in Barangay Ganta,” a village which is partly part of Datu Piang and partly part of Shariff Saydona, he said.
Citing information from the ground, Hermoso said the BIFF, from a huge force of about 1,200 armed men, have split into smaller groups to avoid the military manhunt.
“We will continue operations in the next 48 hours, by then we hope they will lay down their arms and face justice,” Hermoso told reporters.
Government forces have been hunting down a band of BIFF who are facing criminal, kidnapping, bombing and murder charges. But the attempt to serve warrants of arrest led to the punitive operation as the BIFF was seen massing in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato on Monday.
Hermoso announced that the number of fatalities rose to 40 among the BIFF with one soldier killed in action and eight others wounded.
Twelve other BIFF were hurt in the four-day sporadic skirmishes.
A soldier was killed when the BIFF set off an improvised device in Barangay Damabalas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao.
He said the police and military personnel were tasked to serve arrest warrants against leaders of the BIFF but were fired upon, triggering a firefight.
The joint police-Army operation was launched Monday in BIFF strongholds in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Piang, Sultan sa Barongis and Datu Salibo in Maguindanao, and Pikit in North Cotabato.
“The MILF is aware of our operation and they are supporting it by protecting civilian communities,” he said.
Relief officials placed the displaced persons to about 12,000.
Hermoso stressed the operation has nothing to do with the signing of the last annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement. The BIFF has repeatedly said they are opposed to GPH-MILF peace process.
On Saturday, MILF and government peace panels signed the fourth and final annex to FAB that will pave the way for the the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. PNA