Three members of a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) terror group were killed in clashes with the military on Tuesday, March 3, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
Army troops on Monday, March 2, launched offensives against the Dawlah Islamiyah (Arabic for "Islamic State") branch of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in parts of Maguindanao province. The initial target was the faction led by sub-leader Salahudin Hassan Karialan, said AFP Westmincom spokesperson Major Arvin Encinas.
Combat clearing operations went on until Tuesday, when troops from the Army's 57th Infantry Brigade recovered the body of a militant in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan municipality, at around noon.
Later at about 3 pm, the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade launched pursuit operations against militants from the same group in Sitio Talpok, Barangay Tuayan, Datu Hoffer municipality.
Soldiers exchanged fire with more or less 5 militants for about 20 minutes, after which the militants "withdrew toward an unknown direction," Encinas said.
Army troops afterwards recovered the bodies of two of the militants, along with a Garand rifle, a caliber 45 pistol, magazines, and ammunition.
The BIFF is a separatist group that splintered from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the former rebel group that now governs the nascent Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). A branch of the BIFF led by Esmael Abdulmalik, also known as Abu Torayfie, has pledged allegiance to ISIS – the Dawlah Islamiyah Torayfie Group (DITG).
The DITG has claimed responsibility for several bombings in Central Mindanao over the last few years. Along with the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group, the DITG is one of the more insidious terror groups in the Philippines with links to foreign extremists.
Armed groups that linger despite the establishment of the more substantially autonomous Moro region pose a challenge to the MILF and the BARMM – the Philippines' main answer to generations of restiveness in Mindanao.
The military, meanwhile, are under orders to stamp out these groups by the end of the Duterte administration in mid-2022.
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.