BIFF sniper shots force anew temporary closure of Maguindanao highway

DATU UNSAY, Maguidanao (MindaNews/ 24 August)—Suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fired sniper shots and harassed military and police detachments at a portion of the Maguindanao highway at around noon today (Friday), forcing authorities to temporarily close it anew to traffic, a military official said.

The same portion of the highway was also closed to traffic two weeks ago after BIFF forces simultaneously attacked military detachments in the area.

“It was just a temporary [road closure] for the protection of travellers, there were reported sniping in Datu Unsay,” Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, 6th Infantry Division chief, said in a text message.

Ardo said that soldiers immediately secured the stretch of the highway from Barangays Iginagampong and Meta in this town.

Authorities closed the highway from Crossing Salvo in Datu Saudi Ampatuan up to Shariff Aguak, the same stretch paralyzed to traffic two weeks ago after the attack by BIFF fighters.

But three hours later, dozens of motorists were advised to use the road after military clearing operations were conducted.

At 5 p.m., the highway was closed again to traffic since travelling at night would be dangerous to motorists. The road was to open to traffic the next morning.

Residents here said the sniper fires from the BIFF forces could be meant to drive away the coming of Army reinforcement troops.

The residents also lamented that they have just started to rebuild their lives, and that they fear another firefight might erupt later Friday night.

Bai Inaya, who requested anonymity, was seen rushing in the highway of Barangay Maitumaig to get the remaining things in their abandoned house.

Only her cat and her newly born kittens were left in the deserted village.

“ When we left, our pet was just in the final stage of pregnancy. After we came back, she had her four lovely kittens. They were all born in the middle of the war [two weeks ago],” she said.

Bai Inaya said she hopes that there will be no skirmishes again so they can live a normal life.

“Living in the evacuation center was so hard,” she stressed.

Traces of the recent heavy fightings will describe how their village was shattered—trees felled and houses riddled with bullets.
Abumisry Mama, BIFF spokesman, called yesterday and warned that they will launch more attacks.

He advised civilians to move away from military detachments to avoid getting hit by stray bullets.

A girl, who was sleeping beside her father in an evacuation center, died last Tuesday night from a stray bullet. The father suffered a wound in the left leg.

This week, the BIFF forces launched separate attacks in Guindulungan, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato, leaving two civilians dead and eight others wounded, including a civilian nurse. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)