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2 MILF members killed in latest encounter with BIFF faction

Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas have been running after the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters faction for seven weeks now in keeping with its 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with the Philippine government. File
MAGUINDANAO — Two guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were killed while two others were hurt in firefights with Islamic militants in the province on Sunday.
 
Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, director of the Police Regional Office-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, identified on Monday the MILF fatalities as Mustapha Musa, 24, and Muhammad Kadil, 40.
 
They both belonged to the MILF’s 105th Base Command under Imam Zacaria Guma.
 
The encounter between MILF forces and gunmen led by Esmael Abdumalik at the border of Barangays Tee and Andavit in Salibo, Maguindanao was their 16th since August 1.
 
MILF guerillas under 105th and 118th Base Commands and members of its Task Force Ittihad have been running after Abdulmalik and his men for seven weeks now in keeping with its 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with Malacañang.
 
The interim truce obliges the MILF, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to cooperate in maintaining law and order in conflict flashpoint areas in southern Mindanao provinces.
 
The MILF declared war against Abdulmalik’s group, also known as the third faction in the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, after six botched attempts to raise the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in government-recognized enclaves of the front in the second district of Maguindanao.
 
The MILF and the government are engaged since 1997 in bilateral peace-building initiatives meant to put a diplomatic closure to the nagging now five-decade Moro issue.
 
 
Local commanders of the MILF have tried but failed to convince Abdulmalik and his men to renounce their links with ISIS-inspired jihadist blocs in the Middle East.
 
The skirmishes between the two groups last Sunday erupted when militants attacked MILF guerillas searching for booby traps along farm trails at the boundary of the two barangays.
 
Abdulmalik, who has knowledge in fabrication of improvised explosive devices, was a henchman of slain Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan.
 
The MILF already lost 18 men in encounters with Abdulmalik’s group since last month, more than half of them killed in IED explosions.
 
Two MILF guerillas, Surani Abilusa, 50, and Taha Sabpa, 30, were wounded in the encounters on Sunday, now both confined in a hospital in Cotabato City.
 
 
Local executives said six followers of Abdulmalik, initially identified only as Salem, Nasrullah, Sidik, Minandang, Musa and Asraf, were killed in the incident.
 
The sources, among them members of the municipal peace and order councils in Maguindanao’s adjoining Salibo, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona municipalities, said Monday that barangay captains have confirmed that four other followers of Abdulmalik were wounded in the ensuing gunfights.
 
Abdulmalik, an ethnic Maguindanaon who hails from Barangay Pusaw in Sharif Saidona, started as a commander in the BIFF, but broke away last year and established his own group in the fashion of ISIS.
 
The leaders of the two other BIFF factions, one led by Imam Karialan and the other by Imam Bongos, immediately distanced themselves from Abdulmalik after the MILF started chasing him in August.
 
The MILF’s continuing hunt for Abdulmalik and his men is supported by units of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Tactical Operations Group 12 of the Philippine Air Force.
 
Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello of the Maguindanao provincial police and Col. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army’s 601st Brigade, separately said last week that MILF forces have killed no fewer than 25 followers of Abdulmalik  since August 1.
 
They both announced that their fatality counts are based on reports by local officials and barangay leaders in the municipalities of Salibo, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona.
 
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