ZAMBOANGA CITY: Suspected rebels on Monday bombed a military convoy in Maguindanao. One soldier was killed and four were wounded in the attack that sparked off heavy fighting in the town of Datu Unsay.
The convoy carrying Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, and troops were crossing the Meta Bridge when the bomb exploded.
The military blamed the attack on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which is fighting for an independent Muslim state.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said one soldier was killed in the attack and the four wounded were brought to the hospital.
“They were heading to the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Awang town also in Maguin–danao when the attack occurred. An IED exploded hitting the convoy. Heavy exchanges of fire ensued and one enlisted personnel was killed in action and four others are wounded,” Hermoso told The Manila Times.
He said a military reinforcement pursued the attackers and caught up with them, engaging the rebels in a running gun battle.
“The operation is going on against the BIFF,” he added.
It was unknown if there were enemy casualties, but just recently troops disarmed a homemade bomb planted outside the municipal hall of Shariff Aguak also in Maguindanao.
The recovery of the explosive came following a clash between Del Rosario’s forces and BIFF in the town of Rajah Buayan where troops recovered five automatic rifles and BIFF uniforms, including radio sets and backpacks left behind by rebels.
The military blamed the BIFF for the series of attacks on government forces in Maguindanao. It also linked the BIIF to past bombings in the province.
The BIFF—under former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel leader, Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato—has been fighting waging bloody war after it split with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2011.
Kato accused MILF leader Murad Ebrahim for abandoning their struggle for independence and betraying the rebel group when he agreed to a peace deal with Manila.
Kato and another senior rebel leader, Abdulla Macapaar, were accused by authorities as behind the series of deadly attacks in Mindanao in 2008 after peace negotiators failed to sign a Muslim homeland deal because the Supreme Court declared the accord unconstitutional.
Kato suffered a stroke in 2011 but his condition remains unknown, although there were reports that a new commander— Sheik Mohidin Animbang—has taken over the command of the BIFF, whose members were mostly former fighters of the MILF and rival group Moro National Liberation Front.