CAMP SIONGCO–Government forces in Maguindanao have been conducting preemptive and reconnaissance patrols in the vicinity of military installations following renewed harassment by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the military here said Friday.
Capt. Arvin Encinas, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the reconnaissance patrol in Maguindanao’s adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Salibo and Mamasapano was a pro-active stance as the BIFF launched a series of “pocket offensives” in Datu Salibo and Datu Saudi Ampatuan towns over the weekend.
Two Huey helicopters of the 12th Composite Air Support of the Philippine Air Force were seen hovering around Maguindanao in Sunday and early Monday to back ground troops.
The BIFF harassment, Encinas said, left one soldier slightly injured after the bandits set off an improvised explosive in Barangay Sambolawan, Datu Salibo town on Friday.
Encinas said an undetermined number of BIFF armed men attacked at 7 p.m. the detachment of 57th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Sambolawan that injured Sgt. Greg Jordan.
A 10-minute firefight ensued until the gunmen fled.
It was the second harassment by suspected BIFF since last week. On Wednesday, an IED was set off by the BIFF in Barangay Timbangan, Datu Salibo that left a soldier injured.
“The BIFF is training to prove it is still a force to reckon with so they conduct occasional harassment,” Encinas said.
Encinas assured commuters using the Cotabato-Isulan highway that the road remained passable but discouraged motorists to travel at night.
“We have security forces deployed along the highway to ensure the safety of motorists. The BIFF harassment was a desperate attempt by the lawless elements to send the message they are still there,” Encinas said.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said their enemies are government forces and not civilians or non-combatants.
He said his group will continue harassing soldiers.