14 IS-linked militants surrender to the military — official
DAVAO CITY – Fourteen suspected Islamic State-linked militants surrendered to the authorities on Monday in Midsayap town, Cotabato province, a military official said Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Edgardo Vilchez Jr., commanding officer of the 34th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said thirteen of the surrenderers were all members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), under Commander Malayo, a lieutenant of Kagi Karialan, the BIFF leader and trusted lieutenant of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) chair Imam Ameril Omra Kato before Kato died in 2015.
Karialan is a senior leader of BIFF, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who signed a peace deal with the government in 2014, which brought about the expanded autonomy in the Bangsamoro autonomous region.
Vilchez identified the 14th militant who surrendered as Nick Taro, who contacted authorities on the same day in the town of Northern Kabuntalan, Maguindanao.
“The surrender of BIFF members and a field commander serves as a huge setback to the BIFF,” Vilchez said.
READ: BIFF commander, 10 others surrender in Maguindanao
The returnees turned over eight M1 Garand Rifles, a Springfield Caliber 30 Sniper Rifle, one 7.62 mm M14 rifle, one M16 rifle, a rocket propelled grenade launcher, three Caliber 45 pistols and ammunition.
“We will continue to strengthen our relationship with all security forces and Local Government Units (LGUs) to effectively address the threats of these terrorist groups,” Major General Juvymax Uy, the regional military commander, said in a statement.
Following the peace deal with the government, which brought about the expanded autonomy in the Bangsamoro, the 12,000-strong MILF is now helping security forces go after the BIFF and other armed militant groups fighting the government.
BIFF has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, but the group largely stayed away from the five-month fighting in Marawi City in 2017, when another group of Islamic State-inspired militants led by the Maute brothers and Abu Sayyaf head Isnilon Hapilon occupied sections of the Islamic city, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents, some of them still failed to return home until now.
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