Army bomb experts defuse roadside bomb in Maguindanao

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DATU HOFFER, Maguindanao — An improvised bomb planted along a roadside here caused a heavy traffic along the Cotabato-Isulan highway Thursday morning and stalled some 100 vehicles.

Police and military authorities shut down the highway near a bridge in Barangay Labu-Labu 2 around 6 a.m. after a roadside bomb was found by residents. Among the vehicles stalled in the incident was that of the Philippine News Agency-Cotabato News Bureau team.

A military bomb expert, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said the bomb, which was packed with gunpowder, concrete nails and metal shards, was cellphone-triggered and could have seriously hurt civilian motorists.

Traffic was opened after two hours when the Army’s ordnance team deactivated the explosive, which they said bore the signature style of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The discovery of the roadside bomb came hours after a rifle grenade, fired from a distance, landed and exploded near a gas station in Barangay Poblacion, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Datu Paglas Mayor Ibrahim Paglas said the explosion occurred at 8 p.m. Wednesday but nobody was hurt. He blamed illegal drug syndicates as behind the attack, adding it was to avenge the group’s losses in the intensified anti-drug campaign of the local government.

Last week, the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion clashed with the BIFF in Sitio Mopac, situated some 500 meters from the Paglas municipal hall at the town center. The terror group had plotted to take over the municipal hall but was foiled after residents reported to authorities their presence in the area.

Both the military and the police here have blamed the roadside bombings on the BIFF, which the terror group usually carry out to divert the military’s intensified operation away from them.