COTABATO CITY – Security forces are hot on the trail of suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who waylaid on Sunday a convoy of the town mayor of South Upi, Maguindanao, and resulted in the death of a civilian, and wounding of four persons.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Pondanera, 57th Infantry Battalion commander, said government forces have launched pursuit operations against the BIFF militants who ambushed the convoy of Mayor Renalbert Insular in the outskirts of Barangay Pandan, South Upi past 2.pm. last Sunday.
South Upi Police Chief Lt. Billy Fontanilla said some 10 heavily armed men opened fire at the convoy of Insular, which included police escorts and relief volunteers, while it was on its way home from a humanitarian mission in Barangay Itaw.
Fontanilla, who was in the convoy, said the gunmen detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they planted on the road before they fired at the convoy.
“We were able to return fire and engage the suspects in an intense gunfight for almost one hour,” Fontanilla said.
He said the suspects withdrew after helicopter gunships arrived to reinforce the government forces.
He said Insular was unhurt during the attack, but disclosed that a local villager, who was with the group, Thelmo Sase, was killed during the IED explosion.
Fontanilla said Insular and their convoy came from Barangay Itaw where they conducted community outreach program for Teduray tribesmen, who were displaced after BIFF bandits burned several houses in the area on New Year’s eve.
Pondanera said government forces have launched manhunt operations against the suspects who withdrew toward the towns of Talayan and Datu Unsay.