Army claims 21 BIFF slain in Maguindanao offensives but rebel spokesperson laugh off report

Mindanao Armed Conflict  • Sun Mar 19, 2017 09:37 AM  •  218   0
By Edwin O. Fernandez
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CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao  – The military here today said 21 members of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed and 26 others were wounded during the March 13-16 air and ground assaults in two Maguindanao villages.  

But BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama denied the Army claim, saying the air strikes and the Army operation yielded nothing.  

“The bombs only hit trees and marsh, we were not there when the bombings occurred, we are not affected, only the civilians were displaced,” Mama said in Filipino.  
"We are still here and we will get back soon," he added, also denying international terrorists are in his group.  

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said five improvised explosive devices and bomb components were recovered during the three day law enforcement operations after foreign terrorists were sighted with the local BIFF forces in the villages of Andavit and Tee in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.  

Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th ID chief and commander of Joint Task Force Central, said no casualty was reported on the government side.  

He said the deployment of blocking forces proved effective in preventing the terrorists from escaping the massive operations.  

At 3 a.m. Saturday, five firearms were recovered following a brief firefight in Barangay Pidsandawan, Raja Buayan, Maguindanao.  It was not clear if the band of BIFF suffered casualties in that encounter.
 

Encinas said the lawless group were fleeing Datu Salibo and entered an area in Barangay Pidsandawan where an Army detachment of the 40th Infantry Battalion was located.  

Encinas said the recovery manuals for IED-making indicate that the slain terrorists are giving instructions on how to assemble explosive devises and launch bombing attacks.

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Dela Vega said the coordinated air and ground assaults were conducted after Army intelligence confirmed the presence of Muhammad Ali Bin Abdulrahman, alias Muawiyah, a foreign terrorist; Salahuddin Hassan, a local terrorist and bomber trained by the latter, and Esmael Abdulmalik, alias Abu Toraype, the Dawlah Islamiyah Maguindanao founder and a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) Brigade Commander.  

No dead bodies of slain bandits were recovered.  

He said validations are being made on the ground on the persistent reports that these terrorists were killed.  

Encinas said the group were among those trained by slai international terrorist Zulkifli bin hir, alias “Marwan,” who was killed an elite police unit in an operation in January 2015. The group was believed responsible for the series of bombing incidents in Mindanao.  

He said group has been conducting training on IED-making of newly recruited members from different provinces including those from the Lanao del Sur-bsed Maute group with test missions of blowing NGCP towers and other public places.  

"These are commendable operational accomplishments of the Joint Task Force Central under Brigadier General Arnel Dela Vega,” Major General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said.  

"With the recent successful operations, the AFP has dealt a severe blow on the reported ISIS cell in Central Mindanao. We are also confident that their bomb making capability was seriously degraded if not negated," Galvez said in a statement. 

The Army also partnered with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in an anti-drug operation in Pikit, North Cotabato that netted 11 persons and the recovery of carnapped motorcycles and almost P1.5 million worth of illegal drugs.
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