THE Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked at least three military positions in Mindanao on New Year’s Eve with the fighting lasting well into the first day of the year, the military reported on Friday.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division, said at least 20 BIFF fighters fired 40mm mortars at a detachment of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion in Maguindanao at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“They surrounded the area and opened fire with 40mm mortars,” Petinglay said, adding that no government troops were injured or killed in the attack.
About three hours later, another BIFF group attacked a detachment of the 34th Infantry Battalion in Shariff Aguak, also in Maguindanao, with fighting lasting until after midnight.
Lt. Col. Edgar delos Reyes, commanding officer of the 34th IB, said their troops were able to push back the bandits with heavy gunfire.
Just few kilometers away in Linantangan, Shariff Saydona, another firefight ensued after around 50 armed BIFF members harassed the detachment of the 40th IB.
The military said no troops were hurt in the attacks.
Aside from the three BIFF attacks on military outposts, feuding units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front clashed in Sultan Sa Barongis town and the fighting lasted until dawn Jan. 1.
“We are thankful that peacekeepers from the MILF immediately intervened this morning, resulting in the ceasefire”, said Col. Joel Mamon, commanding officer of the 40th Infantry Battalion.
On Dec. 30, Pope Francis condemned the BIFF’s killing of innocent civilians in Mindanao on Christmas Eve but the rebel group vowed to step up its attacks until New Year’s Eve.
Fourteen people died in the Christmas Eve attacks, nine of them villagers who were gunned down by BIFF insurgents. At least four rebels were killed by government forces.
Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, 33rd Infantry Battalion Commander, said about 300 men carried out the attacks and are now the subject of a massive manhunt.
Almost simultaneously, a separate band of BIFF fighters attacked Barangay Simsiman, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato on Christmas Eve.
Led by Commander Alamada Abonawas, the BIFF fired a rifle grenade toward the house of Robert Lerado, village councilman of Barangay Simsiman, killing him on the spot, raising the death toll to 13, nine civilians and four BIFF.
After attacking villages in the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, the BIFF also stormed the village of Malagakit, also in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, firing at a Catholic chapel where a midnight mass was ongoing. Churchgoers scampered to safety but nobody was hurt.
Also on Dec. 24, at 9 p.m. another group of BIFF stormed a detachment of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Barangay Dapiawan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao. No casualties were reported.
Bunayog said government forces had difficulty retrieving the remains of slain farmers due to improvised bombs planted by the BIFF before they fled.