Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BIFF harassment in Maguindanao meant to derail delivery of relief goods to flood victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): BIFF harassment in Maguindanao meant to derail delivery of relief goods to flood victims

The military here Wednesday said the five-hour road blockade by Moro bandits in Maguindanao Tuesday was meant to prevent the delivery of relief goods to flood victims in Maguindanao's second district.

However, after the military cleared the highway with bandits and improvised bombs, trucks carrying more than 10 tons of relief supplies from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), pushed with the delivery to the towns of SK Pendatun and Datu Paglas, two of the communities affected by flooding as a result of incessant rains since Sunday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said they are convinced the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) pulled off their simultaneous attacks in Barangays Bagan and Macasampen, Guindulungan town to take hold of the relief items that include used clothing, rice, canned goods and noodles intended for families displaced by floods.

Citing intelligence information, Hermoso said the BIFF who are all Muslims and into fasting, could have ran out of food supplies and planned to grab tons of relief goods scheduled to be delivered Monday dawn.

Moro bandits numbering about 100 strafed a passing fuel tanker and two cargo trucks in their attempt to paralize the highway. Separate BIFF rebels also simultaneously harassed an Army base of the 45th Infantry Battalion in nearby Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The relief supplies were from the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman in Cotabato City was to depart for Gen. S.K. Pendatun town via the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway at 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to regional officials.

Officials from the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported about 50,000 families in Maguindanao's 36 towns have been displaced by floods with the swelling of Rio Grande de Midnanao.

Initially, Hataman led the distribution of relief supplies to evacuees in the flooded Sultan Kudarat and Kabuntalan, two of the 19 towns heavily flooded.

According to ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, concurrently the DSWD-ARMM regional secretary, said the regional government has asked the Army to establish more checkpoints along the highway where the relief goods are to be delivered to ensure the safety of aid workers and to ensure Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), get the emergency assistance.

Hataman has reiterated his calls to the BIFF to consider the plight of Muslims who are performing their religious obligations on fasting since they are the end losers in skirmishes and violence in Maguindanao.

Hermoso said the Army has repeatedly withheld its offensive against the BIFF in deference to the fasting month but the soldiers remained on heightened alert.

Tuesday's violence in Maguindanao left eight BIFF fighters killed, recovery of two IEDs and two Armalite rifles.

Hermoso, meanwhile, appealed to commuters to refrain from traveling the Cotabato-Isulan highway at night to prevent being caught in the cross fire should violence erupts.

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