Airstrike destroys BIFF IED factory in Liguasan Marsh

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao–A military airstrike on Sunday successfully destroyed the bomb-making factory of the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Liguasan Marsh, an Army official said Monday.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said the operation also resulted to the arrest of BIFF bomb-maker Ustadz Anwar Ali, 22, and his wife Asnaya, 20.

“At least 15 BIFF were killed in action, eight were wounded, a number of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) recovered in addition to the arrest of the bomb maker and his wife,” Encinas said.

On Sunday, military helicopter gunships, backed by artillery fire and ground troops, launched a 2 a.m. “surgical” operation on BIFF positions in the borders of Pagalungan and Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun towns in Maguindanao.

The operation eradicated the targeted BIFF IED factory located in southern part of the vast Liguasan marshland area of Maguindanao, the military said.

“With the successful operation, government security forces were able to negate death, destruction, and panic the IEDs could have caused to peaceful communities,” Encinas said.

The assault troops composed of soldiers belonging to the 33rd Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc, 61st Division Reconnaissance Company led by 1Lt. Ruel Fortuna, and the Philippine National Police’s Fourth Special Action Battalion led by Supt. Darwin Padla.

Encinas said government forces made sure that BIFF members were confined in a specific area to prevent a possible spillover to nearby towns.

BIFF members traded fires with the 33rd IB troopers but were outmaneuvered after an hour of firefight, prompting Ali and his wife to surrender, Cabunoc said.

Confiscated from the couple were a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle and an M4 Carbine rifle.

“The suspects threw their weapons and improvised bombs in the water when we blocked all their escape routes. Ustadz Anwar is known as Abu Omar, a bomb expert in the group,” Cabunoc said.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Army’s 6ID commander, said the strike has somehow eased the fear of local residents even as he assured them that safety procedures were undertaken and deliberately planned by giving due concern to the safety of the civilian populace.

“Appropriate coordination was made with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the targeted areas were confined to locations far from local communities,” Sobejana said.

“I am very determined to defeat these threat groups and prevent them from doing terroristic activities to bring about peace in Central Mindanao,” he added.

The Army soldiers hoisted the national flag after defeating the terrorists in their remote marshy hideout in the Liguasan marshland, a 220,000-hectare wetland situated in the boundaries of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces in Central Mindanao. Noel Punzalan/