BIFF gunmen occupy Maguindanao town public market, triggers panicMay 9, 2021
MAGUINDANAO – Gunmen belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have briefly occupied the public market of Datu Paglas town, this province early Saturday morning, provoking a brief clash with state security forces that sent villagers scampering for safety.
Datu Paglas is only about 12 kilometers from Buluan town, where the Maguindanao provincial capitol is located.
Officials first spotted around 50 BIFF gunmen converging in the public market, as if bracing for an attack.
Local officials, among them senior members of the Datu Paglas municipal peace and order council, tried to convince the BIFF bandits to leave.
But their efforts went awry when the group fired at policemen dispatched to secure villagers residing near the market.
Authorities tagged the BIFF, operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in all deadly bombings in Central Mindanao in recent years.
The group has a reputation for attacking non-military targets, commercial establishments and public conveyances to avenge deaths of members in clashes with pursuing police and military forces.
Major Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF gunmen involved in the siege belong to Imam Karialan group.
Karialan leads one faction in the BIFF. He has more than 30 cases in different courts for acts of terror, multiple murder and other heinous offenses.
The late Ustadz Ameril Ombra Kato founded the break-away group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). MILF officials booted out Kato from the organization in 2010 for violation of MILF policies. Kato had also some irreconcilable differences with members of the MILF central committee.
‘Show of force’
The gunmen escaped towards different directions after a running gunfight with the government troops.
Villagers said they saw the gunmen carrying five wounded companions. They identified the three of them, who are adolescents, as Sukarno, Bansil, Usop, as they withdrew.
“One possible reason for their show of force,” Uy said of the group’s motive. They wanted to show that the BIFF Karialan group has remained strong, he added.
The BIFF Karialan group has lost 17 men in 13 encounters with the military from January 17 until April 28.
Local officials and military officials had also secured the surrender in batches of 31 followers of the group during the period.
PHOTO: The hostilities in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao trigger panic among residents. (Contributed photo)