Military shells BIFF position in Maguindanao

A unit of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/01 March) – The military bombarded with artillery fire a position of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Thursday night in Maguindanao province, sources said on Friday.

The shelling came three days after the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) took over from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan town told MindaNews the 40th Infantry Battalion based in his municipality shelled with artillery fire the position of the BIFF, a breakaway group of the MILF.

The military conducted a surgical artillery strike after monitoring the movement of the BIFF, he said.

“The military fired artillery against the BIFF position almost the whole night,” Ampatuan said.

Major Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said a fire mission was launched against the BIFF members positioned somewhere in Datu Piang town.

There were no reported casualties as of this time, he said shortly past 11 a.m.

Encinas also said there was also no civilian displacement caused by the artillery fire.

Von Alhaq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the shelling against the BIFF fighters was apparently triggered by the killing of two soldiers in Datu Salibo town earlier on Thursday.

The killing of the two soldiers was allegedly a retaliation by the BIFF for the death of a member known as a certain “Boy Native,” Alhaq added.

The slain BIFF member, Boy Native, had a bounty on his head but it was not clear who felled him, Mayor Ampatuan said.

The military’s Encinas failed to give details about the slain soldier and the BIFF member.

Ampatuan noted the artillery offensive against the BIFF on Thursday night came on the heels of the turnover of the ARMM to BARMM.

On Tuesday, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who was appointed interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), formally took over the reins of power from ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman during a ceremony at the ARMM regional government compound in Cotabato City.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Murad during the oath-taking of the BTA members in Malacanang on Friday.

The BTA will govern the BARMM until the election of the new set of officials in 2022.

The BARMM was established after the enabling law, Republic Act 11054 popularly called the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), was ratified during the plebiscite on January 21.

During the second plebiscite on February 6, 63 of 67 villages in North Cotabato opted to join the BARMM. Lanao del Norte voted against the inclusion of its six towns to the BARMM.

The BOL is anchored on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 after four decades of conflict that claimed over 120,000 lives, including civilians. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)