From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 2): Army captures 7-hectare BIFF lair, hoists PH flag
Government forces of 601st Brigade conduct clearing operation after simultaneous shelling of BIFF hideout in Barangay Ganta, Datu Piang, Maguindanao. (Randolf Marconi Casuse)
The military on Saturday hoisted the Philippine flag in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters’ (BIFF) main camp, which fell to government forces after a week-long offensive against the brigand group.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) spokesman, said the Philippine flag was raised at about 9 a.m. at the seven-hectare BIFF lair in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao.
Officials said thousands of ammunition and bomb making components were found in the seized enemy main camp, which they described as well fortified.
Brig. Gen. Edmund Pangilinan, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, and Col. Edgar Gonzales, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, led the flag raising ceremony.
After the singing of the national anthem, soldiers offered prayers to the slain BIFF men.
The military earlier said at least 52 BIFF members, including three child soldiers, have been killed, while 49 others were wounded in continuing offensive against the breakaway Muslim rebel group. Some of the slain BIFF men were hastily buried in Reina Regente mountain range in Shariff Saydona Mustapha.
The government, on the other hand, suffered one fatality and 20 injured.
Clashes between government forces and the BIFF broke out one day after the signing in Kuala Lumpur of the final annex of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The military said joint police and military personnel were on their way to serve warrants of arrest against certain BIFF personalities when they were attacked by BIFF armed men led by commanders “Bongos” and “Karialan”.
A massive law enforcement operation ensued and was headed by Pangilinan, Gonzales, and P/Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, chief of the Police Provincial Office of Maguindanao.
The operation from January 27-31 in Barangays Ganta, Bakat, Dasawao of Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Barangay Damablas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao resulted in the dismantling of BIFF strongholds, including the group’s training and bomb-making facilities.
At the captured BIFF camp on Barangay Damablas, Datu Piang town, soldiers recovered pictures of BIFF child warriors.
On Friday, Hermoso said one of the BIFF commanders whom he identified as Commander Hassan Indal was killed during a close air support at the BIFF headquarters in Barangay Ganta.
An explosion believed perpetrated by the BIFF occurred at Barangay Lower Salbu, Dati Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. 12 people, including six soldiers, two journalists and four civilians were wounded in the incident.
“They are now desperate because of the losses they suffered from the on-going law enforcement operations. They are now targeting even the civilians,” Hermoso said.
“It doesn’t matter to them who gets hit,” added the official.