Philippine soldiers patrol a road in a farming town in North Cotabato province, June 21, 2017.
Mando Mamalompong, a spokesman for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), was killed Saturday morning during a gun battle with police and army soldiers who were out to serve an arrest warrant at his base near Midsayap town in North Cotabato province, regional army chief Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said.
Sobejana said a 30-minute gun battle resulted in the death of Mamalompong and his escort, Nur Hamid Sabdulla. A soldier was injured slightly.
“We are doing our best to defeat the enemy with your full cooperation and support. The entire community is hoping that this menace of society will come to an end and that peace and development will push unhampered,” Sobejana said.
Military sources said the arrest warrant was based on Mamalompong’s alleged possession of firearms and on murder charges in connection with the series of bombings in the region.
Earlier this month, a homemade bomb exploded at a packed restaurant in Isulan, a city in nearby province of Sultan Kudarat, about 1,441 km (900 miles) south of Manila, leaving one dead and 17 wounded.
It was the most recent attack since Jan. 27 when militants detonated two bombs at a Catholic church in Jolo, killing 23 people and wounding more than 100 others. The IS leadership claimed responsibility for the attack.
The BIFF, with hundreds of fighters, split from the 12,000-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008. The MILF gave up its rebellion and opted to establish an expanded autonomous region in the south, where its leaders have assumed leadership posts.
The BIFF pledged allegiance to IS, but did not send fighters to Marawi two years ago. About 1,200 people, mostly militants, were killed in a five-month battle ending in October 2017 that began when IS-linked fighters tried to seize the southern city.