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Army drives away BIFF from Maguindanao town

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Soldiers on Tuesday foiled an attempt by militants to hoist the Islamic State flag over a spot overlooking the Maguindanao massacre memorial in Ampatuan town.

A gunfight ensued as soldiers arrived to drive away members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who had taken up position on hills in Sitio Narra in Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan.

Senior members of the municipal peace and order councils in the adjoining Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak towns in Maguindanao said Wednesday the BIFF bandits were led by Diok and Abu Ruzdak, who each lost two followers in the encounter.

The scene of the skirmishes is near Sitio Salman in Barangay Masalay, where a memorial stands to commemorate the 58 victims of the infamous Nov.23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre. The country’s worst case of election-related violence is also called the Ampatuan Massacre for the town that it happened in and for the political clan accused of being behind the killings.

Sources from the local communities, among them elected officials, said the four BIFF fatalities, Samir Guinta, Undak Kamarudin, Sangkay Guiabar and Mohammad Bantuas, were killed by artillery from a nearby Army artillery base.

The BIFF, which operates in the fashion of the Islamic State, has been trying to sabotage the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Wednesday that vigilant farmers in Barangay Masalay and local members of the MILF alerted authorities to the suspicious convergence in Sitio Narra of the BIFF gunmen.

The government and the MILF are bound by a 1997 ceasefire accord and two succeeding compacts — the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro — to cooperate in addressing security concerns in conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces.

Soldiers found materials for improvised explosive devices along three escape routes the BIFF gunmen took to the hinterland boundary of Ampatuan and South Upi town in Maguindanao 

The outlawed BIFF has been blamed for bombings in central Mindanao since the group emerged in 2010.

Article source: https://www.philstar.com/nation/2018/12/05/1874439/army-drives-away-biff-maguindanao-town

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