1soldier killed, 2 others injured in military-BIFF clash in Mamasapano

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 10 November) – A law-enforcement operation to arrest one of the leaders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) turned bloody after the rebels and its allies fought back in Mamasapano, Maguindanao over the weekend.

Armed Forces Western Command spokesperson Major Arvin Encinas said fighting raged the entire Saturday resulting to the death of an Army soldier. Two soldiers were wounded.

He said four members of the BIFF faction led by Ismael Abubakar, alias Imam Bungos were killed in the fighting that lasted until the wee hours of Sunday.

A tricycle passes through a newly constructed bridge in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao province in this fiale photo taken in January 2016  TOTO LOZANO

“We used every available asset we have.. artillery and airplanes because the BIFF were too many,” Encinas said.

Encinas said the joint law enforcement operation by the military and the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police was conducted to serve a warrant of arrest against Abubakar who led one of the three BIFF factions.

In 2015, Abubakar adopted the ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levan (ISIL) and declared its allegiance to the radical group.

The weekend fighting took place near the bridge in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano where 66 persons were killed during a law enforcement operation to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkfli Adhir alias Marwan. Of the 66, 44 were SAF troops, 17 were combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, and five were civilians.

The fighting triggered the evacuation of at least 400 families in Barangay Tukanalipao, according to officials from Mamasapano town.

Butch Malang, chair of the MILF’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) said the  government informed them of the law enforcement operation on Thursday, a day before the military and police started their operation in Tukanalipao on Friday.

Malang said the fighting intensified when Abubakar’s allies and other armed groups joined last Saturday.

He said the MILF fighters stayed away from the fighting. They stayed with the civilians on the highway.

Malang said the village of Tukanalipao is an MILF community.

The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government on March 27, 2014. Part of the agreement is the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. That new political entity is called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In September, the MILF decommissioned the first 30% of its combatants, as agreed with government in the 2014 peace pact. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)