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COTABATO CITY – Security forces continue with their hunt for members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the restive Muslim province of Maguindanao where clashes had reportedly killed over 2 dozen militants, including a Singaporean terrorist.

More troops were sent to different towns in an effort to destroy BIFF groups scattered in the province. The 6th Infantry Division said the campaign, which began March 11, was aimed containing the terror threats posed by the BIFF, whose leaders led by Abu Turaife, have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

It said as many as 20 militants under Turaife were slain in the assaults in Shariff Saydona town, and among those killed was Muhammad Ali Bin Abd Al Rahman or Muawiya, a notorious jihadist belonging to the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya and had been a bomb trainer for the Abu Sayyaf group.

The reports were based on intelligence information, but army commanders claimed to have seen or recovered pieces of body parts of those killed in an area targeted by military bombardments.

Over 100 militants were being pursued by security forces in the province which is also a stronghold of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014. The clashes also killed one soldier and wounded at least 7 more.

The military’s Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) said air, artillery and ground operation were continuing not only in Shariff Saydona, but also in the towns of Datu Salibo, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak where the group of pro-ISIS militant commander Salahudin Hassan was scattered. “JTFC launched a surgical air and artillery mission to clearly identify and confirmed targets that complemented a focused ground operations against the Daesh-inspired terrorist group at dawn of March 11.

The operation was initiated after a concerned citizen relayed information regarding the consolidation of the fully armed terrorist group in the specific area,” it said.

It added that local residents also reported to the authorities that terrorists had forcibly occupied their houses since last month that pushed them to live because of fear and sorrow.

The task force revealed that former BIFF members who surrendered to the military had provided intelligence that allowed security forces to track down the locations or hideouts of militants in the province.

“Former BIFF rebels who surrendered to JTFC also supported the information being relayed to locate the specific locations of the terror group. Follow on operations ensured that the terrorists were confined in the area and prevented the spill over as our troops were deployed in the strategic areas,” it said, adding, the military also coordinated with the MILF to prevent any accidental clashes while troops were pursuing the BIFF in the towns. Philippine authorities have blamed the BIFF for the series of terror attacks in the restive southern region. (Mindanao Examiner)


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