8 rebels killed in Maguindanao clashes

(3rd UPDATE) Members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attack army detachments Tuesday, July 30

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A breakaway Moro rebel group attacked army detachments in Maguindanao dawn of Tuesday, July 30, forcing the closure of a national highway linking this city and General Santos City.

Armed Forces spokesman Lt Col Ramon Zagala said the clashes killed at least 8 rebels and wounded 5 others. Travel on the national highway returned to normal Tuesday afternoon.

Trees cut by rebels, a water tanker and another truck blocked the national highway Tuesday morning, particularly in Barangay Bagan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao, residents said. This prompted government forces to temporarily close the road.

At 10 am, soldiers diffused two improvized explosive devices along the highway, the military said. They also recovered two firearms from the slain rebels.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), said they launched the attack as a punitive action against soldiers.

“Yes, our fighters attacked several military detachments. They started this, we will finish this. The firefight is still ongoing,” Mama said.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is holding peace talks with the government. The attacks came weeks after the government and the MILF reached a breakthrough in negotiations on wealth sharing.

READ: Gov’t, MILF agree on wealth sharing

Reports said BIFF members harassed an army detachment in Barangay Buayan, Datu Piang, Maguindanao at around 4:30 am Tuesday.

Then they launched another attack in Barangay Bagan in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao.

Mama said they will continue these attacks until they attain a “genuine Bangsamoro state.”

“Even if it will be as small as a barangay as long as it follows the Islamic law. The Philippine Constitution will never be able to accommodate Islamic law,” Mama said.

Led by former 105th Base commander Ameril Umra Kato, the BIFF splintered from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after serious disagreements over the conduct of the peace negotiations with the government. They believe the peace process is a form of capitulation on the part of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel movement.

Two days before the July 8 resumption of the talks in Kuala Lumpur, the BIFF ambushed an army truck and attacked an army camp in Maguindanao. The July 6 clashes killed at least 31 BIFF members and 5 soldiers, the military said. 

READ: Military, rebels clash ahead of peace talks

The military has yet to issue an official statement on the Tuesday attacks. – Rappler.com

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