Philippine military kills 12 militants, including rebel leader

Seven soldiers were also wounded in a gunbattle with Islamic fighters in the southern province of Maguindanao del Sur.
BenarNews staff
Cotabato, Philippines
Philippine military kills 12 militants, including rebel leader Fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 118th base Command are seen in the outskirts of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, southern Philippines on April 3, 2024. On April 22, at least 12 suspected Islamic militants belonging to a MILF splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), died in a clash with soldiers.
Jeoffrey Maitem/BenarNews

A dozen suspected Filipino militants including a key rebel commander were killed in a clash with the military in the south of the Philippines, authorities said Tuesday.

Seven soldiers were also injured in Monday’s gunbattle that occurred in the village of Kitango in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao del Sur province, said Brig. Gen. Jose Vladimir Cagara, the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team.

The military said the rebels were members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was once the largest Philippine militant organization. In 2014, MILF signed a peace deal with Manila in exchange for an autonomous Muslim region in the country's south.

Cagara said soldiers had killed Mohiden Animbang, also known as commander Karialan, as well as his brother Saga Animbang, the group’s operation chief, and 10 other militants. 

The BIFF fighters “were completely annihilated using modern military warfare equipment,” he said, adding a dozen high-powered assault rifles, including M14s and M16s, had been seized.

Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, a regional military chief, said the BIFF fighters had been urged to surrender peacefully, but they had refused.

Erasing the BIFF Karialan faction was a “tremendous success” in the battle against terrorist groups in the region, he said.

Authorities estimate the BIFF has only a few hundred members and is concentrated mainly in central Mindanao, a Muslim island in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

Two BIFF factions, led by Ismail Abubakar and Abu Turaife, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, the military and security analysts say.

Karialan’s faction was more concerned with fighting for a self-governing Muslim homeland in the south, according to experts. 

The BIFF backed the seizure of Marawi in 2017 by militants linked to the Islamic State, but held off from sending its own fighters there. 

At least 1,200 militants, soldiers, policemen and civilians died in the five-month siege and a huge portion of the lakeshore city remains uninhabitable to this day.

In 2019, the BIFF was blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the south, including on a market and at a restaurant in the town of Isulan that injured eight and 18 people, respectively.

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales contributed to this report from Manila and Roel Pareño from Zamboanga City.


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