ATTACKED. Troopers of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion rush to carry a wounded comrade into a military vehicle after an attack by Daesh-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao del Sur province on Wednesday morning (March 22, 2023). Another soldier was killed in the incident. (Photo courtesy of Tiyakap Kalilintad/DXMS-Cotabato)

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao Norte – A soldier was killed while his companion and a civilian were wounded following a drive-by shooting by gunmen on board a minivan in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao del Sur province on Wednesday morning.

Brig. Gen. Oriel Pangcog, the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade commander, said the victims were manning a checkpoint in Barangay Libutan when attacked around 9 a.m.

He identified the slain soldier as Private First Class (PFC) Jorey Abibas of Libungan town, North Cotabato province; and the wounded as PFC Jonathan Nacion of Pigcawayan town, also in North Cotabato.

A civilian identified by police as Asidza Bayao was hit by stray bullets.

The two soldiers both belong to the Army’s 23rd Mechanized Company of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion.

“It was a terroristic attack. The suspects on board a heavily tinted minivan slowed down while passing by the checkpoint but suddenly pulled their rifles and fired at our troops,” Pangcog said in a radio interview.

Pangcog said the attackers are believed to be members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), in retaliation to the recent death of BIFF’s Abdulkarem Lumbatan Hasim alias “Commander Jacket.”

Hasim was killed with his companion, Mahmod Lumbatan, during a law enforcement operation on Feb. 18 at a bus terminal in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat province.

Colonel Roel Sermese, Maguindanao police director, agreed that the BIFF was likely behind the attack.

Citing a police investigation report, Sermese said the attackers were led by Tong Aban Amang, a BIFF-sub leader under Commander Jacket.

Joint police and military operations against the suspects are ongoing, Semese said. (PNA)