SAUDI AMPATUAN, Maguindanao: Government forces have foiled the attack staged by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) from Friday night until dawn of Saturday in Datu Salibo town here.
Col. Felicisimo Budiongan, commanding officer of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, said the harassment that started from 7 p.m. on Friday up to 4 a.m. on Saturday did not cause any injury to government forces.
However, it struck fear among villagers living near the Army bases along the Datu Saudi Ampatuan-Datu Salibo-Datu Piang highway.
When soldiers from three camps returned fire, the attackers fled under cover of darkness, Budiongan said, adding he could not say whether the Army counter-offensive has wounded or killed any of the attackers.
Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, admitted his men launched the attack in retaliation for the killing two weeks ago of Tamharin Esmael, allegedly by the military. Esmael is a sub-commander of the BIFF.
Mama said more attacks are coming as long as the Army is in Datu Saudi and Datu Salibo, both in Maguindanao.
Before midnight however, the attackers returned and fired rocket-propelled grenades toward the 1st mechanized battalion checkpoints. A sporadic exchange of gunfire ensued until about 4 a.m. on Saturday, Budiongan said.
The bandits then slowed down and eventually fled when soldiers from the mechanized brigade responded, backed by armored personnel carriers, he added.
Residents panicked but no evacuation was reported.
Soldiers temporarily shut down portions of the Cotabato City-Maguindanao-Sultan Kudarat highway at sunrise to defuse an improvised explosive device planted by the attackers along the highway.
The military reopened the highway more than an hour later.
On December 24, the same outlawed group flagged down four vehicles and hauler trucks and used them to block the highway at the adjacent Barangay Bagan in Guindulungan, Maguindanao.