PIKIT, North Cotabato: The military here launched Monday a massive law enforcement operations against renegade Moro rebels who set off bombs in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato on Saturday night.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) set off an improvised explosive device in Barangay Ulandang, Midsayap, North Cotabato while another band of guerillas were seen massing in the borders of Pikit, North Cotabato and the towns of Saydona Mustapha, Datu Piang and Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao.
The massing of BIFF forces came after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the last of the four annexes of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“We have been trying to bend our tolerance but the bandits continue its lawlessness, we cannot allow this to happen,” Hermoso told reporters.
He said the surgical operations was carried out after BIFF forces set off an improvised bomb fashioned from 81-mm mortar at a roadside in Barangay Ulandang, Midsayap on Saturday night seconds after a convoy of 40th Infantry Battalion soldiers passed by. Nobody was hurt in the blast.
The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade fired more than 20 rounds of 105 howtizers toward Barangay Paidu Pulangi in Pikit, North Cotabato Sunday to prevent the bandits from crossing toward North Cotabato.
As this shelling was happening, residents of Barangays Paidu Pulangi, Kabasalan and nearby villages, have fled to the town center to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
“So far no casualty was reported,” Hermoso said. “We act even before they can occupy civilian communities.”
More troops from the 7th Infantry Battalion based in Pikit were also moved to the North Cotabato-Maguindanao border as blocking force while the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade was deployed in the towns of Datu Piang, Shariff Saydona and Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao.
“We are containing the BIFF in one area in the marshland so they cannot sow terror in other areas,” Hermoso said.
Tahira Kalantungan, chair of the Pikit municipal disaster risk reduction and management council, said the local government has imposed forced evacuation to residents in the boundary of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
“We have no actual number of evacuees but we are asking them to leave their homes due to mortar shelling,” she said. PNA