COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Three government security forces were wounded as they clashed Saturday, February 6, with an undetermined number of fighters of a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberaton Front (MILF) in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao province, a military official said.
Lieutenant Colonel Warlito Limet, chief of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said the fierce gun battle occurred simultaneously in the villages of Butilen, Andabit, and Tee, where he cited that 3 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were reportedly killed.
Limet said 3 of his men, including a captain, were injured but they are safe and out of danger. The rebels also set on fire heavy equipment as they retreated.
“We have recovered improvised bomb materials after the firefight. Our 3 men only suffered minor injuries,” he said.
The fighting began on Friday, February 5, where the BIFF attacked soldiers securing the bridge construction in the town.
Abu Misry Mama, spokesman for the BIFF, confirmed their forces were involved in the latest encounter.
He said they were in the area when the soldiers arrived.
“We were only forced to fire our weapons because the soldiers were in our location,” he said. “We have just strengthened our forces to continue our fight for an Islamic state.”
At the same time, gun runners allegedly connected to government military personnel have been selling weapons and ammunition to them.
Mama said most of the guns were M-14 and M-14 rifles, which they can easily get from their suppliers.
“We believed they have links with the military but not all of them,” Mama said.
About 15,000 firearms, mostly high-powered rifles, are owned by several armed groups in Mindanao, including the MILF, the smaller Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, BIFF and communist rebels.
Bobby Benito, secretary general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, said the leadership of the military should look into the revelation of the BIFF.
“Although that’s a reality now the military must investigate the issue,” Benito said.
At the same time, the peace group leader based in Mindanao said homemade bombs used by terror groups operating in the region were mostly 81mm and 61mm mortars, which only the military used.
The BIFF broke away from the MILF in 2008 and has vowed to continue the uprising, claiming that the Malaysian-brokered talks would not lead to a separate Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao. – Jef Maitem / Rappler.com