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AFP ends all-out offensive vs BIFF

/ 08:23 AM March 30, 2015

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THE military is set to end its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Catapang announced on Monday.

“Effective today, March 30, the all-out offensive against the BIFF will be ended,” Catapang told media, referring to the month-long military drive to oust members of the armed group from areas in Cotabato and Maguindanao.

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BACKSTORY: AFP launches all-out offensive against BIFF 

“After the relentless operations against the BIFF we have achieved our objectives: the neutralization of more than 50 percent of their ranks, the capture of bomb factories, and seizure of enclaves and safe havens in different Maguindanao localities,” he added.

The military launched the offensive last February 21 after the BIFF attacked communities in Pikit town in Cotabato province reportedly as a result of a “rido” or clan war with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under commander Jack Abas.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama said they attacked in retaliation against the administration of Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, whom he accused of paying off the MILF to drive their group out of the province.

Mendoza denied the claim of Mama but admitted giving development funds to localities that included MILF communities.

BACKSTORY: BIFF rebels torch MNLF homes in Pikit, North Cotabato 

In launching its offensive, the military said it was also going after bombmaker Basit Usman, who escaped a police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25.

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“We will continue to hunt down terrorists like Usman and his cohorts who are now hiding outside the conflict areas,” the AFP chief said.

Pursuit operations would continue against the “remnants” of the BIFF.

The rebels are believed to be hiding in the Liguasan marshlands and mountainous areas.

The AFP chief said they have decided to stop the all-out offensives because the Moro rebels have broken up into smaller groups.

“It’s part of our tactical move because if we move also a hundred of soldiers, the enemy can easily know or locate us,” Catapang said.

Catapang said 139 BIFF members were killed, 53 were wounded and 12 were captured during the military drive.

The offensive also killed 10 soldiers and injured more than 30.

Next phase

Catapang said they are now entering the next phase of their operations, dubbed as “peace and development operations.”

He said they will coordinate with the local government for the safe return of about 90,000 evacuees.

The AFP chief said President Benigno Aquino III has initially approved the release of P67 milion that would be used for socio-economic projects in Maguindanao. AC

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TAGS: AFP, Basit Usman, BIFF, Cotabato, Gregorio Catapang, MILF
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