Authorities warn against night travel along Maguindanao highway

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 14 July) – Authorities on Sunday cautioned traveling along the Maguindanao highway connecting the cities of Tacurong and Cotabato at nighttime due to the threats posed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

A joint advisory from the 6th Infantry Division, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and the Office of Civil Defense in Region 12 said that government troops have conducted security operations along the Tacurong-Cotabato highway due to recent attacks by the BIFF.

“All are discouraged to travel along the said highway today (Sunday) and during nighttime,” the first advisory issued at 6 a.m. said.

In the second advisory effective 10 a.m., it said that the Cotabato-Tacurong highway has been cleared of “obstacles and is now passable.”

Government troops, however, were still conducting security operations along the peripheries spanning Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao and Cotabato City, the second advisory said.

“All travel is discouraged during nighttime,” the second advisory added.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6ID spokesman, said that government troops have secured the Tacurong-Cotabato highway from security threats.

“The highway is passable and secured,” he said in a text message.

Hermoso particularly noted that the highway connecting the towns of Guindulungan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan has been cleared of lawless elements and “secured as of 9:30 a.m. Sunday.”

In August last year, the road stretching from Guindulungan to Shariff Aguak, the capital of Maguindanao, was closed to traffic after BIFF forces launched simultaneous attacks against government installations in the area.

Last week, five soldiers were killed as the BIFF, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), launched attacks against military targets in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

The military claimed that 18 BIFF fighters were killed in the ensuing firefights.

Thousands have been forced to evacuation centers in Datu Piang town due to the clashes between government and BIFF forces, reports said.

The BIFF attacks came ahead of the resumption of peace talks between the government and the MILF on July 8, which ended with the signing of the annex on wealth-sharing at 12:07 a.m. today, Sunday.