MAMASAPANO, Maguindanao — The manhunt against outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will continue until the last BIFF is neutralized, the military here said Tuesday.
But Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the operation shifted from “all out offensive,” which the Army at first launched in Maguindanao to “all-sectors offensive” with all sectors participating in the efforts to get rid the province with lawless and extremist elements.
“We have no time table when to terminate the operation but our directive is to continue hunting down the BIFF and other terrorists relentlessly,” Petinglay said.
According to Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the government’s law enforcement operation against the BIFF in Maguindanao could drag until June this year.
But Petinglay said no military timetable has been set.
She said that the campaign against the BIFF and international terrorists they provided haven has shifted from “military alone action” into a “community action” where government forces and local leaders and civilians will join hands in neutralizing the terrorists.
Hataman led the distribution of Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) of more than 10 tons of food rations to displace families in Mamasapano, Salibo, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns.
“Our relief team will continue helping the displaced families,” he said, adding that DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman has committed to send more aid for the IDPs.
Areas in Mamasapano that never been occupied by military because of the presence of lawless elements are now secured by members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT-6).
Marines established checkpoints along road leading to Mamasapano outlying villages to prevent the return of BIFF who were flushed out by Army offensive last Saturday.
Army and police forces backed by Marines are now in control of a large portion of Mamasapano where Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” was killed in a police commando operation last Jan. 25.
Three Marine troopers were wounded when government forces clashed with BIFF in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. About six BIFF were reported killed in that incident.
Hataman said he feared for difficult days ahead for the IDPs who were now housed in various schools and village halls in Maguindanao’s 11 towns.
At least 16 schools in the province have also been shut down temporarily for security reasons, displacing more than 15,000 elementary and high school students, according to Hataman.
To the BIFF, Hataman made this appeal. “Support peace process and cooperate with the people of Mindanao who are helping each to build lasting peace and development in our area.”
Hataman also said he has already briefed President Aquino on the extent of the evacuations in the province and has sought help for the evacuees. The President vowed to direct agencies to extend help so that no one dies in evacuation centers.
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, also alerted all Army units to thwart diversionary tactics by the BIFF which normally conduct bombings in civilian communities to divert military action against them.
At noon Tuesday, the Army foiled bombing attempt by BIFF in Kabacan, North Cotabato after a civilian alerted authorities of his discovery – a deadly improvised bomb.
The IED was left near Simuay Hardware along Barangay Kayaga, Kabacan, North Cotabato.
It was the second bombing attempt by the BIFF that the government forces foiled in two days.
On Sunday night, Army bomb disposal team defused a powerful IED at a roadside in Barangay Kabingi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao after a civilian alerted authorities of a suspicious bag nearby.
“Peoples participation about security matters is important to prevent terrorism,” Pangilinan said even as he lauded the civilians for reporting quickly and accurately.