Military launches air strikes in Maguindanao vs. Dawlah Islamiya

Heavily armed forces of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) somewhere in Maguindanao in this file photo taken July 22, 2011. The group formed by renegade Moro rebel leader Amerial Umra Kato may be facing military operatons now that the MILF is about to declare that Kato is no longer officially a part of MILF. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera
A unit of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 23 May) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched Monday air and artillery attacks against members of the Islamic State-aligned Dawlah Islamiya terrorist group in Datu Salibo town, Maguindanao, prompting hundreds of families to flee for safety.

Brig. Gen. Eduardo Gubat, acting commander of the AFP’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said the operation against the Dawlah Islamiya headed by Abu Torayfie in the marshland of Datu Salibo was based on information provided by civilians and confirmed by the military.

The group of Abu Torayfie, who is believed to be the Dawlah Islamiya amir (chieftain) in Mindanao, was seen massing up in the marshland, the official said.

The Abu Torayfie group is one of the factions within the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF forged a peace deal with the government in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

Gubat said the ground and air assaults against the Dawlah Islamiya, using MG-520 attack helicopters and FA-50 fighter jets, commenced at about 7 a.m. Monday.

It happened as the country marked the fifth anniversary of the infamous Marawi siege, which started on May 23, 2017 and lasted for five months. At least 350,000 civilians were uprooted during the bloody siege staged by the Islamic State-aligned Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups that left the core of Marawi in rubbles.

The combined forces of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups seized Marawi in a bid to establish the country’s only Islamic city as a wilayah or province of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia. 

Gubat, who just assumed as acting 6th ID commander, said he felt the Dawlah Islamiya terrorist group gathered in Datu Salibo “to welcome him.”

“The target of our surgical operation is the local terrorist group led by Abu Torayfie. They were sighted in Datu Salibo. Our ground troops were there as we speak,” Gubat said in a phone interview.

Residents of Datu Salibo said they heard loud explosions from helicopter gunships and artillery attacks.

At least 600 families from Barangay Penditen, Datu Salibo were reportedly displaced by the military operation.

President Duterte earlier issued an order for the military to fully neutralize the Dawlah Islamiya terrorist group in Mindanao. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)