Alert up in GenSan, nearby areas for possible BIFF diversionary attacks

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Police authorities have placed this city and other areas in Region 12 under heightened alert in the wake of the continuing “law enforcement operations” by government forces against members and leaders of splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said Wednesday such move is a precautionary measure against possible diversionary attacks being planned in the area by the BIFF and allied armed groups.

He said they are specifically monitoring possible movements of the BIFF in parts of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum towns in Sarangani Province and other areas in Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and North Cotabato.

Intensified security operations are ongoing in key urban areas, specifically in the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato, he said.

The official said they have activated additional checkpoints along the national highways and increased their presence in strategic areas of the region to thwart possible movements of the BIFF.

“The actual (security) threats have yet to reach our areas but we don’t discount the escalation of possible spillover incidents in the coming days,” Camba said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police launched the joint “law enforcement operations” on Monday to serve the standing arrest warrants against members and leaders of the BIFF.

At least 20 BIFF members have been killed as a result of the operations.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It is headed by Ameril Umbra Kato, who led attacks in Maguindanao and North Cotabato in 2008 after the Supreme Court junked the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that was signed by the government and MILF peace panels.

The military initially launched an air strike on Monday against BIFF positions in Maguindanao as part of its operation. On Tuesday, it started bombarding identified BIFF lairs with 105-mm howitzers on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, an improvised bomb believed to have been planted by BIFF elements exploded in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao, leaving two persons wounded.

Camba assured that police units and personnel in the entire region are all on alert and prepared in case of spillover incidents in the area.

“We’re not letting our guards down. Just in case it (spillover incidents) happens, we’re all ready here,” he added. (PNA)

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