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Military warns of BIFF attacks on civilian targets

Local News • 22:04 PM Thu Feb 18, 2016
John Unson
The van of Datu Salibo municipal treasurer Carlos Macabangen, damaged by a powerful roadside bomb Tuesday night. (Facebook/Bobby Benito, MinHRAC)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao --The military on Thursday warned the public against possible escalation of attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on non-military targets following Tuesday’s bombing in Datu Salibo that killed five innocent non-combatants.Army bomb experts promptly foiled what could have been another deadly roadside bombing at the border of Maguindanao’s Datu Saudi and Guindulungan towns late Wednesday by promptly defusing a powerful improvised explosive device found along the highway by passersby.Captain Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6thInfantry Division, said Tuesday’s bombing, which killed Datu Salibo municipal treasurer Carlos Macabangen, his son Kenneth and companions Alex Alpas and Bensar Agapay, was an indication that the BIFF targets non-combatants. The victims were civilians very obviously, riding a civilian vehicle,” Petinglay said.Bobby Benito, executive director of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), on Wednesday wrote on his Facebook that a five-year-old girl, daughter of the municipal treasurer, also perished in the Datu Salibo roadside bombing.The MinHRAC, involved in various peace advocacy projects complementing the Southern Mindanao peace process, had gathered photos of the bomb victims and their vehicle, riddled with shrapnel holes, as part of its continuing documentation of armed conflicts in Maguindanao.Benito condemned the bombing and urged the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), which helps enforce the 1997 ceasefire pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to help investigate on the incident.The IMT, compromised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Libya, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union, has been monitoring the government-MILF interim truce since late 2003.The BIFF, however, do not recognize all security agreements and written amity protocols between the government and the MILF, from where it splintered from in late 2010.Police and Army investigators said the roadside bomb the BIFF used in the attack was fashioned from an 81 millimeter mortar projectile rigged with a blasting mechanism that can be activated from a distance and packed with metal fragments with jagged edges.Petinglay said they have been receiving persistent feedback from the local communities that the BIFF will perpetrate more bombings and harassment of non-military targets to avenge the deaths of members killed by soldiers in sporadic firefights that started more than a week ago.The recurring hostilities in the tri-boundary of Maguindanao’s Datu Salibo, Datu Piang and Datu Saudi towns began last week when BIFF gunmen shot with rifles the equipment of a construction outfit implementing a flood control project in the area, apparently to intimidate construction workers and force their employer to shell out protection money.”Macabangen and his companions were on their way to the town proper of Datu Salibo on board a Mitsubishi Delica Van when a powerful improvised explosive device, planted along a secluded stretch of a highway, went off as their vehicle passed by.Local officials said the improvised explosive device used in the attack was identical with the home-made bombs the BIFF used in earlier roadside bombings in the municipality.

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