Army, BIFF clash in Maguindanao as campaign for Bangsamoro ratification nears

Portion of Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao as photographed from the massacre site in Sitio Masalay. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 05 December) – A gun battle erupted between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Tuesday, three days before the start of the campaign for the ratification of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM).

The Philippine Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion used howitzers against the BIFF, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, from early morning until evening of Tuesday.

But the rebels, who had massed in Sitio Narra, Barangay Salman as staging ground for attacks against police detachments in Shariff Aguak, Datu Hoffer, and Ampatuan towns employed sniper fire that slowed down the military assault, Lt Col Alvin Iyog, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion said.

Abu Rusda and Diok, sub-commanders of Commander Karialan’s BIFF faction were allegedly spotted among the rebels.

Iyog said their two Birds-Eye drones which were flown near BIFF positions were hit.

But 6th Division commander Major General Cirilito Sobejana said they were “on top of the situation.”

Maguindanao police director Senior Supt. Madzgani Mukaram said they have not received reports of casualties, although they learned that “the enemies were already cornered.”

“That is why we secured the town centers and highways,” he said.

Officials of the Commission on Elections and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process were set to arrive in Cotabato City for a media briefing on the plebiscite for the OLBARRMM.

The plebiscite is scheduled on January 21 next year. Once ratified, the BARMM will replaced the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)