CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao — The military is bracing for possible retaliatory attacks by IS-inspired armed groups in Maguindanao following the death of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Major General Arnel dela Vega, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) chief and head of Joint Task Force Central, said while the military had neutralized some lawless elements in its focused and surgical operation against the BIFF, the AFP would continue its operations against them.
“Our operation will continue without let-up because we do not want a repeat of an incident where the terrorists harass civilians,” Dela Vega told reporters.
Citing intelligence reports, he said that two of the three factions of the BIFF had reunified in an effort to regain control of Mt. Firis, a sacred ground for Teduray tribesmen.
Dela Vega said the military under his command was always ready to use its might against the BIFF.
Army intelligence reports said the BIFF groups of Commanders Bungos and Karialan had reunited in the mountains of Maguindanao.
The Army also said that 10 BIFF were killed since the lawless group’s harassment started on Christmas Day.
Lt. Colonel Gerry Besana, chief of 6ID civil military operations, said four of the slain members of IS inspired BIFF were recovered by government forces while six others were taken by their retreating comrades.
The BIFF suffered losses in a close quarter firefight in the midnight of Jan. 6 after they failed to overrun an Army station at Sitio Firis, Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.
Besana identified the BIFF whose remains were turned over to local officials for immediate burial as Buna Awba, Mando Guiamal, Mokamad Sagkupan and Roy Alik.
Also killed but were hauled by retreating lawless elements under Commander Bungos were a certain Sallahudin alias Salah, a bomb expert trained under Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, Abu Omar, Magui Datem, Mhads Mangibra, Aladin Rajah Pandalat and Fahad Tungao.
Besana said two other BIFF members, named Daryl Mando and his brother Theng Mando, were wounded in the clashes covered by air strikes.
Four high-powered firearms were also recovered.
Dela Vega also reiterated his directive to all government forces in Maguindanao to maintain road security day in and day out along Maguindanao highways to thwart any diversionary operations by the BIFF.
Two militiamen were hurt when the BIFF set off a roadside bomb on national highway, Barangay Labo-Labo, Datu Hofer, Maguindanao on Monday, which the Army believed was an effort by the terrorists to ease military operations in the municipal tri-boundaries of Datu Hofer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi. PNA-northboundasia.com