Maguindanao del Sur

BIFF warns of more attacks after Maguindanao del Sur ambush

Rommel Rebollido

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BIFF warns of more attacks after Maguindanao del Sur ambush

ILL-FATED. A soldier examines a vehicle that four soldiers were riding when they were killed in an ambush in Maguindanao del Sur on Sunday, March 17.

6th Infantry Division

'It's our turn now to be on the offensive,' warns a faction of the radical group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters

KORONADAL, Philippines – A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) breakaway group threatened on Monday, March 18, to launch more attacks against government forces as it owned the responsibility for last weekend’s attacks that included an ambush that killed four soldiers in Maguindanao del Sur.

A faction of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) said it went on offensive mode in response to relentless military operations even after the start of the Ramadan.

The BIFF is a militant group in Mindanao which broke off from the MILF in 2008. When its leader, Ameril Umbra Kato, died in 2015, it split into several factions.

Abu Sapyun, spokesperson of the BIFF-Karialan faction, said they launched the recent attacks against the military to retaliate.

Sapyun told local broadcaster Brigada News FM that the attacks included an ambush that killed four soldiers in Datu Hoffer town, Maguindanao del Sur, on Sunday, March 17.

The ambush killed four soldiers from the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion identified as privates Marvin Dumaging, Jessie James Corpuz, Private 1st Class Carl Araña, and Corporal Creszaldy Espartero.

Sapyun said his group was also behind the raid on Saturday night, March 16, of a military patrol base in Pagatin, in Datu Salibo town, where an exchange of firepower wounded two soldiers.

He said the BIFF attacks were in retaliation to persistent military offensives such as a raid in Sitio Tatapan, Kitango village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao del Sur, that killed a sibling of BIFF leader Kagi Karialan. He identified the fatalities as Karialan’s brother Abdul Kader Animbang and his nephew, Hamidi Animbang.  

Kami naman ang mag-offensive ngayon (It’s our turn now to be on the offensive),” Sapyun said.

He said their leader, Karialan, ordered his followers to stop attacks on government troops a month ago as they prepared for Ramadan. Karialan, he said, subsequently took back that order after the military offensive in Saudi Ampatuan town.

“Magiingat na lang ang civilians upang huwag silang madamay (Civilians must take precautions and avoid being caught in crossfire),” said Sapyun.

Series of atrocities

Close to midnight on Sunday, an explosion rocked the compound of a police station in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao del Sur.

No one was hurt and there was no significant damage in the attack, said Bangsamoro police director Brigadier General Allan Nobleza. 

Nobleza said investigators were still assessing the situation and trying to identify the group behind the attack in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town.

He said police have yet to determine if it was the handiwork of a terrorist group, given the series of attacks in the province the past days.

He also noted that a soldier from the Army’s 92nd Infantry Battalion, and a civilian companion were wounded when they were attacked in Pagalungan town, Maguindanao del Sur, on Thursday, March 14.

The soldier, identified as Private 1st Class Roberto Desierto Jr., was shot in the neck while he and his companion were on a motorcycle in the village of Galakit in Pagalungan. 

The civilian, Eugenio Gurang, was injured when the motorcycle crashed.

Major General Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, condemned the attacks, particularly Sunday’s ambush, describing it as “a cowardly and treacherous act committed during Ramadan against defenseless soldiers who wish to offer food to Muslim friends during Iftar.”  

Iftar is the partaking of food to break fasting at sundown. 

The soldiers went to buy Iftar food to be given to Muslim residents near their military post when they were ambushed on their return, Rillera said.

With the series of violence in Maguindanao del Sur, authorities have stepped up security protocols with more patrols and checkpoints in known critical areas.

In the neighboring province of Cotabato, authorities began enforcing a gun ban in preparation for the upcoming plebiscite in the 63 barangays covered by the Special Geographic Area (SGA). The gun ban started on March 14 and will last until April 20. –

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