Clashes erupt between BIFF and MILF

Clashes erupt between BIFF and MILF
Petinglay says MILF and BIFF members have been monitored in the area since Tuesday, forcing civilians to flee and seek refuge in nearby villages

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Heavy fighting involving Moro rebels and their breakaway group erupted late Thursday in the town of Pikit, North Cotabato, forcing thousands of civilians to evacuate, a military official said.

In a phone interview, Army Captain Joan Petinglay, 6th Division spokesperson, said Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Jack Abas, who is the head of the rebels’ 108th, 109th, and 110th Base Commands, are currently engaged in gun battle in the village of Kabasalan against members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The insurgents figured in the January 25 clashes with members of Philippine National Police Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 elite cops dead.

Petinglay said the fighting started around 5:50 pm. “The fighting is going on now. Residents are evacuating,” the military official said.  

Earlier, civilians were frightened by the presence of both MILF and BIFF in the village.

Petinglay said the two groups have been monitored in the area since Tuesday, forcing civilians to flee and seek refuge in nearby villages. 

“We have soldiers in the area who were tasked to ensure the safety of civilians,” she said. 

“The MILF has prior coordination with our troops in the area, as well as with the ceasefire committee that they will conduct peace dialogues. However, they encountered BIFF guerrillas coming from Mamasapano,” she explained. She added that their only concern is a possible misencounter.

The incident in Pikit occurred a week after the Mamasapano encounter in Maguindanao.  

The police were on a mission on January 25 to terminate Malaysian bomb maker and terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, but were attacked by the MILF’s 105th Base Command while they were pulling out. 

He was confirmed dead by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was able to match the sample obtained by the police Special Action Force (SAF) with the DNA of his brother who is detained in the US.

At least 17 rebels and 7 civilians were also killed in the almost 8-hour gun battle. – Rappler.com 

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