Military vows to crush BIFF in wake of deadly blast

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/29 Aug) – Military operations against the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao will continue until they could be paralyzed from carrying out terroristic activities, authorities vowed on Wednesday.

Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, issued the pronouncement as he blamed the BIFF for Tuesday night’s bombing in nearby Isulan, the capital of Sultan Kudarat province, that killed two civilians and wounded 35 others.

“These bomb attacks are part of the BIFF’s retaliation against the military for the losses they suffered from the hands of our troops. It is unfortunate that their retaliation did not spare innocent civilians,” Encinas said in a phone interview.

He said that since the start of the year, at least 40 BIFF members were killed in separate armed confrontations with soldiers in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces, a claim that could not be independently verified in the absence of actual body counts.

In June, Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6th Infantry Division commander, said that troops dismantled a BIFF bomb-making facility in Maguindanao province.

The BIFF is known to have been trained by top Malaysian terror suspect Zulkipli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in making improvised explosive device.

Marwan was killed in 2015 after a police operation in Mamasapano town that left 44 members of the elite Special Action Forces dead after clashing with members of the BIFF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The BIFF broke away from the MILF in 2010 due to ideological differences, particularly after the latter opted for greater autonomy instead of an independent Islamic state.

Encinas said the BIFF has splintered into three factions, each with an estimated 60 fully armed members or a total of 180.

The faction led by Abu Turaife had pledged allegiance and is allegedly getting financial support from the Islamic State, Encinas said.

He identified the two other BIFF factions as led by Commander Bongos and Ustadz Karialan.

Two suspects allegedly belonging to the Bongos faction perpetrated Tuesday night’s deadly command-detonated bomb attack, Encinas said.

Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office-12, said the bomb exploded during the opening day for Isulan’s 7th Hamungaya Festival and 61st foundation day on August 30, which Malacañang declared a holiday so that residents can join in the merry-making.

He said that another bomb was also found and detonated shortly after the deadly blast.

Unlike his military counterpart, Gonzales, in a separate interview on Wednesday morning, did not identify the suspects in the deadly blast, saying that investigations are still ongoing.

Gonzales said the region is on red alert, the highest security status, since martial law was imposed last year.

“Please be extra-vigilant and report to authorities suspicious individuals and abandoned packages,” he appealed to the public. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)