SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Troops have been deployed to hunt down the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who attacked several Philippine Army posts in Maguindanao and North Cotabato last week.
The deployment came about as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Midsayap, North Cotabato retained their red alert status over threats of harassment from lawless elements, including the BIFF, and drug syndicates.
It was made after a huge group of BIFF attacked military detachments and outposts in Datu Salibo town, sparking fierce fighting that lasted until daybreak on New Year’s Eve.
The terrorists also raided military posts in Midsayap and Pigcawayan towns in North Cotabato.
The Army fired artilleries at rebel positions while Air Force planes provided cover for troops battling the BIFF on the ground.
The military said at least four terrorists were killed in the fighting but it did not say whether soldiers recovered the bodies of the slain BIFF members.
The latest attack struck fear among villagers living near the Army bases along the Datu Saudi Ampatuan-Datu Salibo-Datu Piang highway in Maguindanao.
Supt. Bernard Tayong, Midsayap town police chief, on Monday said soldiers from the 34th Infantry Battalion (34th IB) and Midsayap PNP will continue to enforce checkpoints in areas identified to be conflict-affected and crime-prone, especially in the boundaries of Midsayap and municipality of Datu Piang.
Since Friday night up to dawn on Saturday, suspected members of the outlawed BIFF harassed an Army base in Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap, wounding Norcel Bulay-Bulay, wife of an Army soldier.
Tayong said about 30 BIFF rebels, led by Commander Tato Pauya and Commander Tong, exchanged gunshots with elements of the 34th IB until about 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Bulay-Bulay was hit by a shrapnel in the head that was apparently fired from a grenade launcher.
She was brought to Amado Diaz Hospital in Poblacion Midsayap but was later transferred to Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City.
Nabalawag is the last barangay (village) of Midsayap before the boundary with Datu Piang.
Midsayap hasdbeen repeatedly attacked by BIFF and drug syndicates the past months, the latest of which was the Christmas Eve grenade attack on a police patrol car that left 17 people injured, including a police officer identified as Senior Police Officer 4 Johnny Caballero.
Police believed the attack was not directed at the Santo Niño Parish Church but at law enforcers in retaliation against their successful anti-illegal drug campaign.