MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr ordered the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) to "conduct all-out offensive operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)," the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
It is effective Wednesday, February 25.
To avoid clashes with the MILF, which is engaged in peace talks with the government, Catapang reminded the unit commanders to properly coordinate operations "within the framework of the ceasefire mechanisms."
"I am saddened by the news that at least 20,000 people had been displaced by the violent attacks perpetrated by the BIFF in the hinterland villages. We will do our best to protect the people and allow them to go back to their homes," Catapang said.
Clashes broke out between the MILF and BIFF in North Cotabato reportedly because of rido or clan war between commanders.
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said his group is ready to counter the military assault, adding that they have so far withstood military and MILF operations against them.
The BIFF has presence in the boundaries of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato. BIFF split from MILF because of disagreements on whether the group should engage in the peace process.
There have been rare clashes between the two Muslim rebel groups after the bloody January 25 police operation that killed 44 elite cops, 18 MILF fighters, and at least 3 civilians. BIFF elements are among those believed to have attacked the police commandos who were exiting an area controlled by the BIFF and the MILF after killing a top-level terrorist.
The military has stepped in and provided support, including artillery. – with a report from Karlos Manlupig/Rappler.com