2 rebels killed, 3 soldiers wounded as military-BIFF encounter sparks anew in Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao — Two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed while three government troopers got wounded as intense gunbattle broke out between the two groups Tuesday in Sitio Lanas, Barangay Pamalian, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, Army’s 6th Infantry Division base camp commander, said heavy fighting between the troopers of the 34th Infantry Battalion and BIFF militants are ongoing in the area.

The skirmish involved the group of BIFF commander Imam Karalian, a known loyal follower of the late BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato.

The BIFF is a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that broke out from their mainstream rebel organization a few years ago due to ideological differences.

Currently, the MILF is involved in a comprehensive peace overture with the government with the exclusion of the BIFF faction.

Pangilinan said that fighting began at dawn when state forces chanced upon a band of BIFF rebels at the Pamalian area who initiated the first volley of gunfire.

Pangilinan has urged Karalian and his group, currently trapped in the village, to voluntarily surrender and avert further bloodshed.

“It would be best that they surrender so that they can avoid more of the followers from getting killed and also prevent more displacement from taking place,” he said.

Pangilinan said two military MD 520 attack helicopters are on standby for possible close air support should atrocities could not be contained soon. PNA/northboundasia.com