Military carries out airstrikes anew on BIFF rebels
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Government security forces carried out two-hour airstrikes Sunday, March 15, against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the marshy areas of Guindulungan, Maguindanao.
Army Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesman for the military’s 6th Division, defended their action that caused a standoff with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 106th Base Command in Datu Abdullah Sangki town.
Petinglay said two MG-520 attack helicopters were dispatched and used at around 12:00 noon in the air assault. “The air offensive lasted for more than two hours. There is an ongoing combat operation in the area,” Petinglay added.
At the same time, she confirmed that they launched an artillery assault near the position of the MILF’s 106th Base Command.
The MILF’s 106th Base Command Commander Mastur Lintang said troops under the government's Mindanao joint task force, which has been running after members of the BIFF, fired artillery that nearly hit his house Friday evening.
BIFF in MILF camp?
“We are not saying here the BIFF are seeking refuge in the MILF camp in the area, but there were sightings of them before the artillery attacks were implemented,” Petinglay said.
“Our soldiers' actions on the ground are calculated. We cannot just fire our howitzers without clear basis,” she added.
On Saturday, soldiers killed 8 more Moro rebels, bringing to 104 the total dead in the ongoing offensives against the BIFF.
Petinglay reported troops also seized a BIFF camp in the village of Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan town after their ground and artillery attacks on Saturday.
Petinglay said 7 60mm mortar fuse, one ballistic helmet, gun powder, a short steel magazine of an M-16 armalite rifle, electrical wires, and several mobile phones were also recovered by the military inside the camp.
A second encampment was also overrun by soldiers. They recovered a battery pack of a handheld radio, a police uniform, a combat pack, and combat boots, according to Petinglay.
“We believe our high-value target is still in Maguindanao,” Petinglay said.
The military said only 4 of the total BIFF dead have been validated. On the government side, 6 soldiers were killed from the fighting after two Marines died on Tuesday. There were also 21 reported wounded.
The all-out military offensives started in February to stop the fighting between the MILF and the BIFF, and to arrest Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman who escaped a police operation on January 25. The operation, however, resulted in the death of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan".
The fighting has displaced at least 80,000 people in Central Mindanao. – Rappler.com