AFP operations vs BIFF in Maguindanao extended until Saturday
MANILA, Philippines—The military operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been extended until Saturday as government troops continue to hunt down its members wanted by the law for their criminal activities.
Security forces have also overrun the BIFF “headquarters” in Barangay Bakat in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao and another stronghold in Barangay Ganta at the boundary of Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Piang on the fourth day of their offensive, said Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao.
Hermoso said that as of Thursday, 40 BIFF members were killed and a soldier died in an improvised explosive device blast. Thirteen were injured among the government troops while 12 BIFF fighters were wounded.
The BIFF area in Barangay Bakat yielded a makeshift factory of improvised explosive devices, Hermoso said.
“These are the IEDs that they used for all the bombings they did in Central Mindanao,” Hermoso told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Hermoso described the area where the BIFF manufactured the IEDs as similar to a “shop.”
Security forces recovered several components for IED making, including unexploded mortar rounds, he said.
Hermoso said there has been sporadic fighting in Barangay Bakat after the BIFF broke up into smaller groups.
Hermoso said the Joint Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has approved the military’s request for a three-day extension.
The AHJAG is a joint effort of the government and the MILF to stop lawless elements taking refuge in MILF communities.
“We want to isolate the lawless group within these 72 hours,” Hermoso said.
Hermoso said the police, supported by the military, would still serve the warrants of arrest on BIFF personalities, including its commander Ameril Umra Kato.
Hermoso said the ongoing military operations have significantly “degraded the BIFF that would only become a police problem later on.”
“This group has no ideology even if they came from the mainstream MILF,” Hermoso said, taking note of the string of atrocities the BIFF committed, particularly against civilians.
The BIFF broke away from the MILF after a scuttled peace agreement with the then Arroyo administration that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008.
In a statement, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the “ongoing military operations are geared at degrading the BIFF’s capability to continue to cause harm to the government forces, civilians and the peace process.”
“Government and the MILF have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the operations will not spill over to involve MILF combatants or cause unnecessary or prolonged hardship to civilians. The MILF is assisting in the operations by helping the government contain the movements of the BIFF,” Ferrer said.
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