CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Military airstrikes and artillery fire pounded positions of the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao on Thursday.
Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the ongoing pre-emptive operation, which started at 3 a.m., came after sightings of BIFF gunmen massing up in the interiors of Barangay Labu-Labu in Shariff Aguak.
“Our operation is to address the threat the BIFF is posing once more in the SPMS box in the province,” Baldomar told reporters here in an interview.
The so-called SPMS box is a military term for the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi Ampatuan), Mamasapano, and Shariff Saydona where the BIFF operates.
Also affected by the ongoing skirmishes between the military and BIFF are the towns of Datu Unsay and Guindulungan.
“We could not allow them to move freely in the area as they will continue to terrorize the communities,” Baldomar said.
The eight-day conflict has displaced more than 5,000 families in the affected areas currently attended to by their respective municipal social welfare offices and relief workers from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Rapid Emergency Action in Disaster Incidence.
Skirmishes between government forces and the BIFF in Maguindanao erupted on March 18 after the terrorists belonging to the BIFF–Karialan faction plotted to attack a Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) post in the area.
The JPST is composed of personnel from the Philippine Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and local police that function as peacekeeping forces in ensuring the security of residents within the six government-acknowledged MILF camps in Central Mindanao. (PNA)