7 MILF members killed in clash with ISIS-linked terrorists

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (UPDATED) – Seven members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed in a half-day fierce battle against  Islamic State (ISIS)-linked terrorists in this town.

Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Gener, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said that the firefight started Thursday morning, October 3, in Dasawao 4 in Shariff Saydona town against the terror group headed by Salahuddin Hassan of Dawlah Islamiyah, a pro-ISIS breakaway group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The group had been tagged as behind the September 7 bombing in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

Gener said the terrorists also suffered casualties the number was still being verified.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Santiago confirmed that the remains of the MILF members were claimed by their families on Friday, October 4. They were identified as Laguiali Ali, Poangan Ganda, Kho Mamaluba, Jeomar Salansamen, Mads Maitem, Tongan Tot, and Datumaniot Musbil.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said that their group had no hand in the firefight. The BIFF, a breakaway faction of the MILF, pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014.

“We are just monitoring the development, what we learned the MILF was overwhelmed by the forces of ISIS in Dasawao,” he said.

Tension remains high in the area, with the MILF expected to send reinforcements after the clash

MILF spokesman Von al Haq declined to comment. 

Major General Diosdado Carreon, 6th Infantry Division Commander, said in a phone interview that the incident was sparked by a long-time feud between the groups involved. 

ISIS claimed responsibility in a communique seen by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity.

ISIS said 8 MILF members were killed, but local police commander Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Santiago told reporters the authorities were only aware of 7 deaths.

Locals said they saw 7 bodies being loaded onto a boat at a riverbank in Shariff Saydona, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of Manila. 

The MILF peace pact ended decades of Muslim rebellion that had claimed 150,000 lives by government estimates in the Mindanao region, home to the Catholic nation's large Islamic minority. 

The MILF was put in charge of a Muslim autonomous region as part of the peace accord, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said IS is attempting to set up a Southeast Asian stronghold there. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com