DATU SALIBO, Maguindanao (MindaNews/14 March) – Ground and air attacks on suspected positions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao said to be harboring a foreign bomb expert entered its second day on Tuesday.
Colonel Diosdado Carreon, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, said their target is the BIFF unit under Commander Bongos.
Carreon said Bongos was confirmed to be protecting Mohammad Ali aka “Mauwiyah,” a Singaporean and alleged member of Jemaah Islamiya.
Ali has been training the BIFF in bomb making, the Army official said.
On Monday dawn, two FA50 fighter jets dropped bombs on the villages of Gawang, Tee and Andabit in Datu Salibo town.
Hours after, two MG-520 attack helicopters and 105 howitzers provided support to ground troops that entered the villages.
The soldiers reportedly found four improvised explosive devices (IEDS) along a road leading to the target area. Bomb experts one IED and detonated the three others.
“There’s no letup in our operation. Our mission is to neutralize the group that has been threatening our people,” Carreon said in Filipino.
But BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama insisted they had no fighters in the three villages.
“Who are they hitting? We have no troops there,” he said over the phone.
Citing intelligence information, Carreon said Mauwiyah has been training BIFF members in bomb making and other terror tactics inside Maguindanao’s SPMS box.
SPMS refers to the towns of [Datu] Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak.
Carreon said before the offensive started on Monday that the BIFF had been harassing government forces in Datu Salibo and Shariff Aguak. In fact, he said, two soldiers were hurt in bomb attacks by the group.
“We could not say how many BIFF fighters were killed or injured, we are still evaluating the situation,” he said.
At least 200 families from Andavit and Gawang and in nearby areas have fled to safer grounds, according to a report from the local government. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)