BIFF camps in Cotabato seized after military ops
CARMEN, North Cotabato — The military on Wednesday said it seized two camps of Islamic State-inspired militants in hinterland villages in the boundary of Carmen and Aleosan towns in North Cotabato province after days of airstrikes and artillery attacks.
Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson for the 6th Infantry Division (ID) based in Maguindanao province, said the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade seized the camps of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the villages of Tonganon in Aleosan and Bentangan here.
Encinas said their reports indicated that the BIFF faction led by Esmael Abdulmalik, alias Commander Abu Torayfe, suffered casualties and had abandoned the camps following the bombings.
“We have reports about it but we cannot confirm [the number of casualties] since there was no body count,” he said.
The camps, Encinas said, could accommodate as many as 100 people at a given time. These areas have several nipa huts, trenches and caves.
Encinas, however, said soldiers had lost track of Torayfe’s group.
Earlier, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, chief of the 6th ID’s civil military operations, said intelligence information showed Torayfe’s group could be coddling several foreign fighters.
The group left the adjoining towns of Datu Salibo, Shariff Saydona, Shariff Aguak and Mamasapano in Maguindanao due to military operations backed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last month.
Torayfe’s group moved to the borders of this town and Aleosan last week but their presence was monitored by Army intelligence operatives and MILF rebels.
It was also last week when the military decided to launch what it called “surgical operations” against Torayfe’s group.
Some 200 families who fled their homes at the height of the operations against the BIFF had returned to their villages, disaster response officials in Carmen and Aleosan said. —Edwin Fernandez
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