COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: An Army captain was wounded as the military clashed on Friday with fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao.
Col. Felicisimo Budiongan, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade based in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, said the firefight started at past 4 p.m. in Barangay Butalo.
An Army unit had been dispatched to the area to defuse an improvised explosive device planted found in a bridge under construction.
“Our bomb experts were dismantling the explosive when the bandits noticed us, then fired at our troops and we responded with artillery fires,” Budiongan said.
The attackers reportedly used .50 caliber sniper rifles. The Army had to retaliate with several rounds of mortars after armed men – reportedly from nearby Shariff Aguak – reinforced the BIFF.
Army bomb experts later safely defused the bomb, Budiongan said.
The spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay blamed rebel leaders Ustadz Roman, Bungos, Abusaiden and Kagui Tatang for the attack.
BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama said they fired at government forces because they came too close to their location.
The BIFF, which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), said the IED was meant to prevent the government security forces from entering their area.
The clash between the Army and the BIFF came amid fears that war may erupt in Mindanao anew after Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The BBL is a component of the signed peace agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The BIFF, which broke away from the MILF in 2008, is opposing the current peace process and is insisting on an independent state.