At Least 44 Militants Killed in Clash With Philippine Troops

At Least 44 Militants Killed in Clash With Philippine TroopsAt Least 44 Militants Killed in Clash With Philippine Troops

At least 44 militants associated with the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group were killed and 26 more were wounded when Philippine soldiers shelled positions held by the rebels in southern Maguindanao Province, the army said on Sunday.

The fighting, initially with about 50 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), broke out in a remote village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town from Thursday morning and lasted the following day, said Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Reuters reported.

A soldier was slightly wounded, the army said in a separate statement.

The number of BIFF members killed and wounded was based on intelligence information, Besana said. The military did not recover any enemy bodies, he said.

Besana said the military launched artillery attacks with air support as the number of BIFF fighters had risen to about one hundred during the fighting.

The military classifies the BIFF, which it said has about 300 members, as a terrorist organization, along with the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.

“Seventy were killed and injured (on the BIFF side), we are still pursuing about 200 more,” Besana said, adding that the clash had displaced about 500 families.

He also said that militants under the Turayfe faction have conducted “diversionary tactics” at Barangay Pagatin in Shariff Saydona, Maguindanao where an army detachment was harassed.

He said more than 100 BIFF militants were involved in the encounter within the select areas of Maguindanao.

“The diversionary tactics off the Turayfe faction was to ease the pressure since most of the soldiers have already responded in one area,” Besana told reporters.

The militants in southern Philippines were regrouping, retraining and recruiting new members for another attack elsewhere after occupying the southern city of Marawi for five months last year, according to the army.

The BIFF members are mostly disgruntled former members of the larger insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed peace accord with the government. The BIFF is among the several groups in Mindanao that pledged allegiance with the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria a few years ago.


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