Bloody encounter between Army, Muslim rebels hurts 5

Army, BIFF clash in Maguindanao; 5 rebels hurt

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – At least five members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were confirmed injured in a clash with government forces in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, the military said Friday.

An undetermined number of BIFF gunmen tried to overrun the Sopad Detachment of 24th Mechanized Company of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Barangay Sambolawan by firing assault rifles, rifle grenades and grenades at 11 p.m.

The attacks triggered a four-hour firefight, ending at about 3 a.m. Five areas near the military detachments had blood stains, an indication the hostilities left BIFF fighters injured.

The morning after, residents and soldiers witnessed the remnants of fierce armed hostilities as showed by concrete walls riddled with bullet holes, coconut trees with marks of bullet hits, road blocks filled with holes and metal roofing of the detachment with traces of rifle grenade explosions.

Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, 2nd Mechanize Battalion commander, said soldiers recovered hundreds of empty shells for cal. 45 pistol, M-16 Armalite rifle and Barret rifle.

An abandoned mosque near the detachment was not spared as it bore bullet holes.

“It was a well planned attack but soldiers’ alertness and firepower foiled the attempt,” Limet told reporters. He said on Tuesday night, the BIFF also harassed the same detachment located along the Datu Saudi Ampatuan-Datu Piang highway, both in Maguindanao.

The road is regularly frequented by commuters, even at night. No civilian casualty was reported.

The morning after the hostilities, soldiers found an improvised explosive device fashioned from 60 mm mortar with fragmentation grenade as triggering mechanism. Army bomb experts later detonated the IED.

Limet said the IED was planted beside a house abandoned by its residents last month.

According to Limet, the attack on Sopad detachment was meant to divert attention from military clearing operations in nearby Barangay Tee, also in Datu Salibo.

The Army official said he is expecting more similar attacks in the future as the military has succeeded in neutralizing the outlawed group.

The Maguindanao conflict started in early February when BIFF attacked a PHP58-million flood control project in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao. (PNA)

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