BIFF attacks a show of force – Army

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/07 July) – The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has been staging attacks to create the impression that it remains a force to reckon with, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Joann Petinglay said.

Petinglay was reacting to the “hit and run” attacks by the BIFF, including the killing Sunday of an unarmed, off-duty soldier in Barangay Labo-Labo, Datu Hofer, Maguindanao.

She said all government forces in Maguindanao have been directed not to travel or commute alone but in groups, on-duty or off-duty, to prevent the recurrence of similar attacks.

Cpl. Saturnino Saragena, of the 38th Infantry Battalion and team leader of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit in Barangay Labo-Labo, was heading toward the market place when shot by suspected BIFF hitmen.

The BIFF, through its spokesperson, Abu Misri Mama, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying his group has shifted to guerrilla warfare because it could not match government forces in an open war.

Before Saragena’s killing, the BIFF harassed the 43rd Philippine National Police Special Action Force Company in Shariff Aguak town, apparently to divert the attention of military forces.

“Clearly, the BIFF wanted to get media mileage,” Petinglay said, adding “the Army will not allow this sitting down.”

Meanwhile, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu condemned the attacks which he said came during the holy month of Ramadhan.

“I am sad that some of the victims of BIFF attacks were soldiers in ‘bayanihan’ mission in Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu said, citing two soldiers who were working for the rehabilitation of Datu Unsay Elementary School were killed earlier.

“Our government forces do not attack or liquidate BIFF when they chance upon them but arrest and give them their day in court,” he said.

The governor shared Petinglay’s assessment that the attacks were a show of force on the part of the BIFF.

Early this year, the military launched an “all-out offensive” against the BIFF in Maguindanao displacing thousands of residents and disrupting classes in the province.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a few years ago.

The split stemmed from disagreements on the conduct of the peace talks with government. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)