SOUTH UPI, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 04 January) — A faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Monday claimed responsibility for the ambush on the convoy of Mayor Reynalbert Insular on Sunday afternoon, which resulted in the death of an individual and the wounding of four others.
This developed as the violence in Barangay Itaw has been blamed for the death of an 86-year-old grandmother, who allegedly died due to cardiac arrest because of the series of attacks waged by the BIFF members in their community.
Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the BIFF’s Bungos faction, said the group ambushed Insular in Barangay Pandan for allegedly provoking the villagers involved in the land conflict with the BIFF supporters.
Insular and his convoy came from Barangay Itaw, where they conducted relief and medical mission in the last two days, en route to the town center when their convoy was ambushed in Barangay Pandan.
The mayor survived the ambush, the third slay attempt on his life since 2016.
Mama said that BIFF supporters sought the help of the group to reclaim some 500 hectares of land that were allegedly grabbed from them by armed Christian settlers in the 1970s.
The BIFF members first harassed Barangay Itaw on December 2, but the attacks worsened towards Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Insular denied the claim of Mama that he was provoking the villagers, saying the local government has been working to pacify the tension and for the return of villagers displaced by the harassments in Barangay Itaw.
Lt. Col, Jonathan Pondanera, 57th Infantry Battalion commander, said that 30 to 50 heavily armed BIFF fighters stormed Barangay Itaw on New Year’s Day.
He said that soldiers and militiamen belonging to the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit repulsed the attempt of the BIFF fighters to occupy the village center.
The armed men retreated after burning at least 13 houses, MindaNews learned.
Due to the escalation of hostilities, 86-year-old Kungan Diwan died allegedly “due to cardiac arrest after she became nervous.”
Ignatio Diwan said the harassment and the loud bursts of gunfire made her mother nervous, who later on collapsed but was not revived.
Her cadaver was left and was given a decent burial only after troops secured the area, the son said.
The BIFF splintered from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 due to ideological differences.
The BIFF has since split into three subgroups—the Bungos, Karialan and Turaife factions, according to the military.