FOUR soldiers were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) planted by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) exploded in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao on Saturday, belated reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City (Metro Manila) said.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said members of the Army’s 61st reconnaissance company were sweeping an area in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo for bombs when an IED went off at around 9:45 am.
Petinglay did not disclose the identities of the wounded soldiers pending notification of their families.
According to Petinglay, Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID commander has ordered the sweeping of Datu Salibo for explosives after the BIFF turned the area into mine field following the series of encounters with government forces.
A total of 40 IEDs have been recovered during the continuing sweeping of the area, she added.
The clashes in Maguindanao erupted on February 5, when members of the BIFF attacked an army unit in Datu Salibo that was defusing a bomb planted under a bridge. The rebels also stormed an area filled with heavy equipment used for flood control projects in the Liguashan Marsh river.
The recent hostilities had displaced more than 5,000 families, which are now housed at the various evacuation centers in Datu Salibo and nearby towns, according to humanitarian groups, who were caught in the middle of a firefight on Wednesday.
Since the Army seized a village in Datu Salibo town controlled by the BIFF, some of its members are trying to get near their former camp that triggers brief encounters with security forces.
Just recently, Petinglay said the radical group harassed an Army tactical command post in the area.
“So nandyan lang sila sa palibot tapos yun nga kumbaga pabalikbalik from afar, hindi yung lumalapit talaga [So they are just around. Going back and forth but they can’t get near]” she disclosed.
Petinglay said it would be very hard for the BIFF to retake their camp because of the presence of huge soldiers there.
“Hind nila magagawa yun kasi ang daming forces na nandun, actually ilang units na nandyan ngayon just for the clearing operation, at kailangang i-clear yung area, actually yung ginagawa natin ngayon is more on clearing operation dun sa IEDs na pinagiwanan nila nila kasi hindi pwedeng pabalikin yung community kung may mga IED [They can’t do that because we have enough forces there. Actually there are a number of units deployed there just for clearing operations. We need to clear the area. Actually what we are doing now is clear the area of IEDs that the BIFF left. We cannot allow the community to go back until we have totally cleared the area of IEDs], she emphasized.
Since February 5, Petinglay said four soldiers have been killed more than 30 soldiers were wounded in series of clashes and bomb explosions.