MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Soldiers clashed again with marauding bandits in Datu Piang town on Monday, causing panic among local folks and evacuees cramped in squalid evacuation sites nearby.
The hostilities erupted when members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), led by Abunawas Ibad and Omar Sangkung, opened fire on soldiers patrolling in a secluded area in Barangay Alunganen in southwest of Datu Piang.
The soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion, the 61st Reconnaissance Company of the 6th Infantry Division and the 7th Infantry Battalion, engaged the bandits in a running firefight that lasted for two hours and waned only at dusk on Monday after the gunmen got low on ammunition and scampered away.
Local officials said four BIFF bandits, two of them identified as Mandih Samsudin and Faisal Salim, were wounded in the gunfire.
The beleaguered bandits opened fire on houses near the scene of the encounter as they escaped, wounding villagers Abubakar Haola, 18 and 62-year-old Hadji Mokamad.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of 6th ID, on Tuesday called on the public to be vigilant in the wake of circulating reports that the BIFF is planning to perpetrate bombings and harassment of non-military targets to retaliate for its loses in 22 encounters with pursuing soldiers in different Maguindanao towns in the past three weeks.
Four BIFF enclaves, including the group’s main encampment at Dasikil area in Mamasapano, are now occupied by Marine and Army combatants, where the Philippine flag is hoisted in symbolic daily flag raising ceremonies since March 2.
Local officials on Tuesday said patrolling Army combatants found last Monday a cache of materials for fabrication of roadside bombs in a hinterland in west of Datu Unsay town in the second district of Maguindanao.
“It was left there by fleeing BIFF bandits,” said a town councilor, who asked not to be identified.
The source said the group that owned the cache of explosives, detonating cords, batteries and wiring diagrams for bomb detonating devices was the same band that set off a bomb at one side of the Meta Bridge connecting the towns of Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi, also in Maguindanao, more than a year ago.
The improvised explosive device was detonated from a distance using a mobile phone just as a convoy led by Col. Jener Del Rosario of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, was passing by.
The blast, which left a soldier dead and three others wounded, damaged the bridge.