Army says it captured camp of Kato followers


COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Government forces on Monday captured a camp of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following intense bombardment and ground offensives in the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, the military reported on Tuesday.

As this developed, police said at least eight BIFF members have been captured as soldiers and policemen stormed an area in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province on Monday.

Supt. Jomar Yap, Sultan Kudarat police chief, said bomb-making components were also seized from the suspects.

Col. Edmund Pangilinan, 601st Infantry Brigade commander, said the captured BIFF camp was located in the borders of Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao, and President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat province.

Pangilinan said the Army used 105-mm howitzers to drive away at least 200 BIFF rebels who, on Saturday, attacked Barangay Bagumbayan in President Quirino, killed a militiaman and a farmer and harassed a detachment of the 33rd Infantry Battalion.

Pangilinan said at least 300 families had to flee their homes due to the violence.

Pangilinan described the seized camp as having perimeter defenses, checkpoints and guardhouses, running trenches and a sniper’s house.

As the BIFF camp was falling, another clash involving soldiers and the BIFF also erupted in Midsayap, North Cotabato, when the rebels attacked an Army patrol base there.

Senior Insp. Henry Narciso, Midsayap police chief, said the armed men attacked the patrol base in Sitio Tampad in Barangay Ulandang.

As they fled, Narciso said the BIFF rebels also attacked another Army base in Barangay Balawag.

Soldiers and policemen recovered near the Army base an improvised explosive device made from an 81-mm mortar shell and an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade shell.

The BIFF, founded by Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Kato bolted the MILF due to ideological differences with his former comrades. Edwin Fernandez and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

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