The dreaded Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked Datu Piang, Maguindanao last Thursday in retaliation for the arrest of two members in an anti-illegal drugs operation, the Philippine National Police said Saturday.
Police Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, PNP chief, said the intention of the attack was to get the chief of police of Datu Piang.
“This possibility of personal grudge is most likely because the chief of police was sought out by the armed men over the earlier arrest of two BIFF members who are relatives of the vice mayor,” said Sinas.
Police Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez, director of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, said the attackers are under Salahudin Hasan and Muhiden Animbang.
Sinas said they are also looking at two other angles in the attack – political rivalry between the mayor and vice mayor of Datu Piang and revenge for the death of Abu Suffian who was killed in a police operation in Cotabato City two days earlier.
Suffian was tagged as the brains behind the a mall bombing in 2018 that left two people dead and 30 others injured.
But Lt. Col. Alaric delos Santos, spokesman of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command, said the real intention of the BIFF was to attack the headquarters of the Charlie Company of the 6th Infantry Battalion. But the attack was prevented by the soldiers who immediately engaged the BIFF in a fierce gunfight.
“On their way to escape, they burned the police car out of frustration because their planned attack was foiled,” said Delos Santos.
The security situation in the area has normalized as of Saturday. Additional policemen and soldiers were also deployed to prevent the repeat of the incident.
Sinas said they are now preparing charges against the attackers that include attempted murder, arson, damage to property, indiscriminate firing, grave threats, and intimidation. He added that all other nearby municipal police stations in the province have been alerted.
During the attack, BIFF members burned a police car and also fired at a church and a school.
More than 50 BIFF members besieged the town, which residents described as a Marawi City-type attack.
The two arrested BIFF members have been charged with illegal possession of firearms.