MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – At least two foreign fighters are believed to be among the 20 suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) killed in military operations that began since Monday, March 11.
Major General Cirilito Sobejana of the 6th Infantry Division (ID) said “more or less 20” were killed “including one foreign terrorist." He said a body of an Arab-looking fighter was seen among the dead.
He said Singaporean fighter Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, known as Mauwiyah, was also in the area along with BIFF subleader Salahudin Hassan during the air strikes. They are believed to be among those killed.
Sobejana said they're still retrieving the body parts so the fatalities may be identified.
The 6th ID launched on Monday, March 11, air strikes and ground operations against BIFF fighters in the so-called “SPMS box” – the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Salibo where the different BIFF factions operate.
Up to 1,360 families or more than 5,000 residents were displaced in the military operations that was supposedly coordinated with the local government units and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Captain Arvin Encinas, 6th ID spokesman, said the deaths resulting from the operations significantly reduced the number of BIFF combatants. The military estimates that over 200 fighters compose the 3 different factions of the breakaway group of the MILF, which now heads the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Encinas said the military operation was triggered by information coming from the communities about the supposed consolidation of armed groups.
Encinas said they have names of at least 17 of the fighters killed in the operations, based also on information from the community. He said residents believe Mauwiyah was among those killed although only two bodies were recovered.
Mauwiyah is a senior Jema'ah Islamiyah member reportedly coddled by Moro rebels. – Rappler.com