DATU SALIBO, Maguindanao (MindaNews/07 April) — Belittling the “capture” by soldiers of one of its strongholds in Maguindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters vowed Wednesday to continue attacking military forces in the province.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama, reacting to the flag-raising Wednesday in Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo said: “Peace will only reign in this community if the soldiers are not here.”
Officials of the 6th Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led the flag-raising ceremony and the declaration of Barangay Tee and nearby communities as peace zones.
“We work with the provincial government to ensure that people here are safe, free from harassment and lawlessness and the dredging project is completed to save you from floods when rainy season comes,” Pangilinan told residents.
But Mama laughed off claims by the military that it has captured the village. He said the BIFF will continue attacking government forces for as long as they are there.
From across the river in Barangay Tee, suspected BIFF members fired at the military and local officials who attended the ceremony as well as escorted displaced families back to their respective villages.
A 30-minute exchange of gunfire ensued but there were no casualties, according to Colonel Lito Sobejana, 601st Infantry Brigade commander who has jurisdiction over Maguindanao’s second district.
The rebels withdrew deep into the marshland, Sobejana said.
Barangay Tee was the site of skirmishes between the military and BIFF that started on Feb. 5 and ended last month.
The Army lost five men and suffered about 30 injured combatants.
The military said they killed over 40 BIFF members who were hurriedly buried by their comrades in accordance with Islamic tradition, a claim the armed group denied.
Some 9,000 families affected by the hostilities have returned to their communities the towns of Datu Salibo, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Talayan and Shariff Saydona. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)