Tension subsides as BIFF gunmen retreat in troubled Maguindanao townMarch 24, 2021
MAGUINDANAO – Tension has subsided in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town where soldiers and gunmen operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria figured in deadly gun battle last week.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) gunmen initiated the hostilities in Barangay Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. They retreated after the Army’s 6th Infantry Division personnel killed 11 of them.
Hundreds of families from Barangay Kitango and nearby agricultural enclaves fleeing from the skirmishes had expressed reluctance to return to their villages.
The villagers are apprehensive of a possible return of the BIFF gunmen once the soldiers will return to their bases.
Major Gen. Juvymax Uy, Army’s 6th ID commander, said Tuesday soldiers are now busy helping agencies of the Bangsamoro regional government extending humanitarian support to evacuees temporarily housed in school buildings and public covered courts.
The Bangsamoro social welfare ministry and the region’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence have been providing relief interventions since Monday to at least 20,000 individuals housed in squalid evacuations sites.
Teams from BARMM-READI, operating under the control of Bangsamoro Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, have initially delivered hygiene kits, food, water and other provisions needed by evacuees while in makeshift shelters.
“Our troops will not falter in providing security to these villagers,” Uy said.
The trouble in Barangay Kitango erupted on March 18 when BIFF gunmen attacked soldiers dispatched by the 6th ID after villagers reported the convergence of armed men in the area, as if bracing for an attack.
Evacuees have reported that the BIFF lost 11 members, mostly adolescents, in the encounter with soldiers from March 18 until early Monday.
The military tagged the BIFF, which uses the ISIS flag as a banner, in all deadly bombings in central Mindanao in the past five years.
The group has a reputation for venting ire on non-military targets to avenge losses in clashes with pursuing military forces.
“We are anticipating possible retaliations. We won’t let our guard down,” Uy said.