6th ID soldiers urged to be cautious against BIFF ‘hit squad’

Major General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Central and the three members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who surrendered on 22 June 2018. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

TACURONG CITY, Sultan Kudarat (MindaNews/5 March) – Alarmed by the spate of killings of military personnel, the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division warned soldiers under its command to be extra-vigilant against a “hit squad” admittedly owned by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Major General Cirilito Sobejana, 6th ID commander, said the morale of his troops “remain high” despite the killing of four soldiers in the past few days in Cotabato City and Maguindanao province.

“(Our) troops are reminded to be extra vigilant even while on off-duty as they are falling prey to treacherous attacks. Similar caution is given to the people in Central Mindanao,” Sobejana said in a statement Monday evening.

He said the liquidations against soldiers under the 6th ID are indicative of “retaliatory actions by terror and lawless groups” as they suffered numerous setbacks from the relentless security operations conducted by government forces.

Sobejana did not name the terror group but the BIFF, through its spokesperson Abu Misry Mama, had admitted responsibility on the spate of fatal attacks against soldiers.

Mama said they gunned down the soldiers to avenge the killing of a certain “Boy Native” in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao Tuesday last week. The BIFF blamed the military for the death of their comrade.

A source said the slain BIFF member had a bounty on his head.

Two days later, in the afternoon of Thursday, BIFF members ambushed a car carrying soldiers in Datu Salibo town en route to Shariff Aguak, also in Maguindanao. Killed were Army Privates Junard Estribor and Nelier John Pinto, both of 57th Infatry Battalion.

Another soldier and a female civilian aboard the car were wounded.

Earlier at around noontime that day, BIFF hit men shot dead SSgt Lervin Lardera in Cotabato City while he was en route to the 6th ID camp in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on a motorcycle.

Last Sunday at around 7 p.m, alleged BIFF members shot dead Corporal Sahelbasar Alaja, who was off-duty, in Datu Odin Sinsuat.

On Thursday evening last week, the military bombarded with artillery fire the position of BIFF members in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Sobejana said the military will continue its focused military operations “to put an endgame to terrorism” in the area.

He also ordered an intensified intelligence operation to foil attempts by the terrorists in attacking off-duty military personnel.

Sobejana urged the cooperation of the public, noting this is vital in achieving sustainable peace.

“The shooting incidents were so disturbing (and we) need to stop it in no time,” he said.

Particularly Cotabato City, being the political and economic hub of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), needs to be insulated from security threats, Sobejana said.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which forged a final peace deal with the government in 2014 that paved the way for the creation of the BARMM. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)