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WAR ON TERROR AFTER MARAWI

Army troopers kill 11 IS gunmen in North Cotabato clashes

/ 05:16 AM December 25, 2017

CAMP SIONGCO—Government security forces have killed 11 Islamic State (IS)-inspired gunmen as of Saturday since combat operations were launched earlier this week in a remote village of Carmen, North Cotabato.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based here, said a militiaman was killed while four other government troopers were wounded in continuing operations against the group of Esmael Abdulmalik.

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Abdulmalik, alias Abu Toraife, was a Maguindanao-based leader of a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and was being linked to the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf and the Ansar al-Khilafa, which also pledged allegiance to the IS cause of establishing a “wilayah,” or IS province, in the Philippines.

Encinas said eight of the 11 slain BIFF men were killed in airstrikes by the military in an area in Tonganon, a hinterland village of Carmen town, starting on Tuesday.

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He said it was not certain yet if there were foreign fighters among the dead gunmen.

Encinas said the Army also captured what appeared to be a training camp of the BIFF.

Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th Infantry Division chief, said the military was expecting the BIFF to launch retaliatory attacks as the military operations in Tonganon intensified.

On Wednesday, suspected BIFF men lobbed grenades at two military checkpoints in the village of Tamontaka here. No one was hurt.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza said evacuees from Tonganon continued to receive assistance.

They were now housed in village centers and public schools in the village of Manili in Carmen town. —EDWIN FERNANDEZ

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