Maguindanao mayor unhurt in BIFF ambush

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    A TOWN mayor from Maguindanao escaped unscathed from an ambush staged by members of the terrorist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Sunday but one of his companions died while four others were injured.

    “It’s good to note that the mayor is safe, he was not harmed,” said Lt. Col. Alaric Atilano, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, referring to South Upi Mayor Reynalbert Insular.

    Police identified the fatality as Thelmo Divinagracia Sase, 28; while the injured were Christian Sase, 22; Ernesto Debang, 53; and Leonard Betita, 20.

    Atilano said the mayor and his companions were on their way back to South Upi town proper when his convoy was waylaid by an undetermined number of BIFF members in Barangay Pandan in South Upi town at around 2 p.m.

    Atilano said the mayor’s group was coming from a relief operation project in nearby Barangay Itaw, also in South Upi, where a number of residents have been displaced due to BIFF harassment last December 31.

    Police said the suspects detonated an improvised bomb.

    Atilano said government troops briefly clashed with the perpetrators. He said artillery rounds were fired toward the BIFF position while MG-520 attack helicopters helped suppress the perpetrators who later fled.

    No one was reported killed or injured on the military side during the firefight, said Atilano.

    He said they have yet to determine if there were casualties on the side of the fleeing BIFF members who are the subject of continuing pursuit operation.