Thursday, May 11, 2017

BIFF death toll in Maguindanao offensives rises to 31 -- military

From the Philippine News Agency (May 11): BIFF death toll in Maguindanao offensives rises to 31 -- military

The military claimed Thursday that 31 members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been killed in the continuing law enforcement operations in Maguindanao province.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry "Kampilan" Division, said the focused military operations in the adjoining towns of Talayan, Guindulungan and Datu Piang, all in Maguindanao, were aimed at neutralizing BIFF leader Ismael Abubakar and his men, including suspected Indonesian members of Jemaah Islamiah.

Encinas said the BIFF fatalities "were initially pegged at 20 but after validation, the number rose to 31" following five days of air and ground assaults.

Aside from Abubakar, alias "Commander Bungos," the focused military offensives are also targeting Ismael Abdulmalik alias Abu Toraype and Salahuddin Hassan alias Orak.

Encinas said that at least six Indonesian experts on bomb-making are allegedly with the group.

He said that Abubakar has been involved in different criminalities and atrocities in Maguindanao and the nearby provinces of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato since the BIFF was formed in 2010.

Encinas said the Army and the local leaders of the adjoining municipalities are validating reports that Abubakar was among the fatalities.

He lauded the different stakeholders, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for supporting the military's campaign to neutralize the BIFF.

In line with the peace process, he said the MILF gave way for the military operation to avoid a misencounter with government troops.

Amid the offensive operations, the military also put up checkpoints and mobile patrols to ensure the safety of commuters traversing the highway from Cotabato City to Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

"The BIFF usually resorts to roadside bombings to divert the attention of military units pursuing the bandits in the so-called SPMS box," he said.

SPMS refers to the adjoining towns of Salibo, Pagatin (Datu Saudi Ampatuan town), Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, all in Maguindanao's second district.

Encinas stressed that the focused military operation was launched with utmost consideration on the primacy of the Mindanao peace process.

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