THE military bombarded with artillery fire a position of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (Biff) Thursday night in Maguindanao.
This came as three soldiers were killed and two others were wounded when suspected members of the Biff under the Bongos or Ismael Abubakar faction launched simultaneous attacks in Cotabato City and Maguindanao.
The shelling came three days after the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm) took over from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).
Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan town said the 40th Infantry Battalion based in his municipality shelled with artillery fire the position of the Biff, a breakaway group of the MILF.
The military conducted a “surgical” artillery strike after monitoring the movement of the Biff, he said.
“The military fired artillery against the Biff position almost the whole night,” Ampatuan said.
Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division, said a fire mission was launched against the Biff members positioned somewhere in Datu Piang town.
Von Alhaq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (Biaf), the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the shelling against the Biff fighters was apparently triggered by the killing of two soldiers in Datu Salibo town earlier on Thursday.
The killing of the two soldiers was allegedly a retaliation by the Biff for the death of a member known as a certain “Boy Native,” Alhaq added.
The slain Biff member, Boy Native, had a bounty on his head but it was not clear who felled him, Mayor Ampatuan said.
The military’s Encinas failed to give details about the slain soldier and the Biff member.
The first attack happened past noon along Sinsuat Avenue, in front of Superama Hyper Market Rh10 Cotabato City. Killed in the attack was S/Sgt. Levin Lardera of the 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco, Maguindanao.
The victim was onboard a black Honda motorcycle heading back to the camp when gunmen riding in tandem shot him several times with a cal. 45 pistol.
He was rushed to Cotabato Regional Medical Center but was declared dead on arrival.
The second attack took place in Barangay Sambolawan, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao around 4:45pm when several assailants waylaid a red car carrying young soldiers.
Killed were Private Nelier Jhon Pinti and Private First Class Junard Estribor, both assigned at the 57th Infantry Battalion. Private Muqtadir Sampulna and an 18-year old female civilian named Resty Alvarico were wounded.
PO2 Nassrolah Gani, case investigator of Datu Salibo police said they recovered 49 empty shells of 5.56 mm ammunition at the crime scene.
This type of ammunition is used for various firearms, including the M16 rifle series.
Gani said they brought the victims to the hospital in Shariff Aguak but Pinti and Estribor died from the severe gunshot wounds.
The police investigator blamed the incident on the Biff.
“Yes, we did it, our men were behind the attack to avenge one of our comrades killed by government troops yesterday,” Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the Biff Bongos faction, confirmed in a phone interview.
Abu Amer, spokesperson of the Biff Karialan faction, also said in a phone interview that the Bongos faction was responsible for the two attacks.
On Tuesday, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who was appointed interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), formally took over the reins of power from Armm Gov. Mujiv Hataman during a ceremony at the Armm regional government compound in Cotabato City.
The BTA will govern the Barmm until the election of the new set of officials in 2022.
The Barmm was established after the enabling law, Republic Act 11054 popularly called the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), was ratified during the plebiscite on January 21. (Bong S. Sarmiento and Ferdinandh Cabrera of Mindanews)