Military sets up detachments in captured BIFF camps

MANILA, Philippines – Military detachments will be set up in at least 4 camps of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that the military captured in Maguindanao last week, according to Armed Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

"We are now occupying the captured camps. We are continuously clearing it. BIFF members involved in the actual battles are always there. It's important that we clear the area," Zagala told reporters on Wednesday, February 5.

The detachments will be set up in barangays Ganta, Bakat, and Dasawao in the town of Shariff Saydona Mustapha, and Barangay Damabalas in neighboring town Datu Piang. This is where the military said it found the BIFF's headquarters, training facility, and bomb-making facilities.

The detachments will be manned by troops from the 6th Infantry Division. "Their mere presence is a deterrence for the enemy to return. The presence is a way for us to patrol bigger portion of the influence area and rid the influence area of the enemy," Zagala said.

Operation Darkhorse II

The military launched Operation Darkhorse II against BIFF on January 26, hours after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the "Annex on Normalization," which would pave the way for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

BIFF is a breakaway unit of the MILF and has been tagged by the President as a "spoiler" to the imminent peace deal. (READ: Soldiers attack MILF breakaway unit)

Operation Darkhorse II was terminated on Saturday, February 1, after the BIFF camps were captured. Military operations continue, however, to ensure that the rebels will not reclaim their camps. (READ: Al Qaeda's black flag seized in BIFF camp)

"We are just going into a new phase of law enforcement operation. Even if we terminated Operation Dark Horse, it doesn’t mean the follow-on law enforcement operation will not continue," explained Zagala.

There is no timetable for the clearing operations. "The greater challenge is to clear enemy influence and we can't make a timeline on that. What we do is continue our operations," he said. – Rappler.com