BIFF blamed in Maguindanao explosion; 12 injured, including 2 TV5 news staff

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/1 February)—A reporter and a cameraman of TV5 were among the 12 persons wounded in a roadside explosion in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao Saturday morning, military officials said.

Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, 6th Infantry Division (ID) commander, blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for the explosion at around 7:30 a.m. in Barangay Lower Salbo.

“This is an act of desperation [by the BIFF],” he said.

The explosion injured TV5 reporter Jeff Caparas and cameraman Adrian Bulatao, both now in stable condition after suffering multiple shrapnel wounds,, the online news portal of TV5, reported.

The news team was traveling on a marked TV5 vehicle along with a civilian pick-up and two military vehicles when the explosion occurred, the report added.

Caparas and Bulatao, together with four injured soldiers, were airlifted to Camp Siongco hospital in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. They were treated with the help of American soldiers.

The TV5 news team was in the area to cover an earlier explosion, MindaNews learned.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who rushed to the military hospital, condemned the explosion.

“They should spare innocent civilians,” said Hataman, referring to the BIFF.

The six other civilians wounded in the explosion were brought to the provincial hospital in Shariff Aguak town.

Clashes between the military and the BIFF erupted last Monday in Maguindanao, reportedly leaving 52 people dead, mostly from the rebel side.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th ID spokesperson, said the military operation was conducted to effect the arrest of BIFF members facing criminal charges.

He noted the military operation was coordinated with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), which are mechanisms under the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The CCCH’s mandate is to protect the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement while AHJAG seeks the interdiction of criminal elements in MILF bailiwicks. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)