Suspected members of the terrorist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked a police station in Barangay Dulawan, Datu Piang, Maguindanao on Thursday night, December 3, according to the military commander in Western Mindanao.
Gunshots were heard from the local police station at around 11 pm as the suspected BIFF attackers “harassed” cops on duty, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr told Rappler past midnight on Friday, December 4.
Reinforcements from the 6th Infantry Battalion under the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division arrived within 15 minutes, and the BIFF attackers scampered away, Vinluan said.
The attackers burned a police patrol car. No casualties were reported, the military general said.
Troops of the AFP’s Joint Task Force Central, in charge of Central Mindanao, are on heightened alert and in hot pursuit of the perpetrators.
The BIFF is the target of ongoing military offensives in the area, and it may have attempted the attack in Datu Piang to divert the military’s attention, Vinluan said.
The BIFF is one of several extremist groups based in Mindanao with factions linked to the Islamic State or ISIS terrorist network.
Hataman denounces attack
On Friday morning, Basilan Representative Mujiv Hataman denounced the attack, describing it as “brazen and senseless.”
“Acts of violence, especially those that springs forth from terroristic acts, do not have a place in our democratic society. They should not derail our efforts toward achieving peace in Mindanao. We have fought tirelessly for the peace we now enjoy, and we will not allow terrorists to take that away from us,” said Hataman, who was former governor of the now-defunct ARMM.
“What happened in Datu Piang yesterday is a hard lesson for all of us: that forces of evil do not sleep. They will come at a time when we least expect them. And they will stop at nothing to sow fear in all of us. This is why we have to be vigilant.”
“I congratulate the armed forces and the police for containing the situation before it got out of control,” he added.
Hataman and Anak Mindanao Representative Amihilda Sangcopan had earlier filed House Bill No. 4585 to create a program for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE). The bill is now pending in the House Committee on Public Order and Safety.
Hataman had enacted a similar program when he was ARMM governor: the Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE). The program aims to eradicate terrorism from the ground up, by addressing poverty, the lack of livelihood opportunities, the lack of education and health programs, among others. – with reports from Taj Basman and Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com