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BIFF rampage forces closure of highway in 3 Maguindanao towns

Local News • 01:24 AM Wed Feb 10, 2016
John Unson
6th Infantry Division troopers prepare pursuit operations against BIFF in Maguindanao. (file)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao --- Authorities closed to traffic for four hours secluded stretches of a highway connecting Maguindanao’s Datu Saudi, Salibo and Datu Piang towns after bandits showed force along the route, provoking firefights with responding soldiers.The series of gunfights between marauding members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and combatants of Army mechanized units in the three towns forced dozens of families to relocate to neutral grounds for fear of getting trapped in the crossfire.Policemen immediately blocked stretches of the highways were BIFF gunmen and soldiers traded shots to prevent civilian casualties.The BIFF is feared for using captured civilians as human shields to prevent soldiers from closing in when they retreat from a guerilla-style attack.BIFF bandits beheaded captives in previous harassment of predominantly Christian peasant enclaves in other parts of Maguindanao and in North Cotabato province.Captain Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6thInfantry Division, said the BIFF went on a rampage after it failed to take over a government project site in Salibo town over the weekend.Barangay folks said four BIFF bandits were killed while seven others, four of them minors, were wounded in encounters sparked by their attempt to sabotage a bridge project in west of Salibo.The BIFF is rabidly opposed to bridge and road projects in underdeveloped barangays, apprehensive it will make their lairs accessible to Army tanks and combat vehicles.Tuesday’s firefights at the tri-boundary of Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Saudi, Salibo and Datu Piang towns waned at about 3and00 p.m. the same day when BIFF bandits ran out of ammunition and scampered away, carrying at least four dead companions.Evacuees confirmed seeing the bandits carry their slain companions away from the scene as they fled.

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