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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Security tightened in Philippines' restive South as military hunts jihadist groups

COTABATO CITY – Military forces have tightened its security in southern Philippines following the series of clashes between troops and jihadist groups in the restive region, officials said on Saturday.

Officials said at least 10 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, including a Filipino bomb expert and a foreign jihadist, were allegedly killed in the recent fighting that also left one soldier wounded in Maguindanao’s Datu Salibo town. 
“A local bomber and a foreign terrorist leader of Jemaah Islamiyah were among those who are killed during the operation, the identities of whom are still being validated on the ground. Troops also recovered 5 improvised explosives,” said Army Captain Arvin Encinas, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in the troubled province. 
Encinas, quoting Brigadier General Arnel dela Vega, said the continued support and cooperation of the community complements the ability of the military in countering “radical extremist groups” in sowing fear and violence in the province. 
“It will just be a matter of time that sustained conduct of focused military operation will eventually result to the total defeat of the BIFF and other terrorist groups and this would bring about the realization of a just and lasting peace in this part of the country,” Dela Vega said. 
Just on Thursday, security forces also arrested 4 members of the jihadist Maute group in the neighboring Lanao del Sur province, according to Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City. 
She identified those arrested as Pao Panganga, Alex Bagul, Alisata Maute and Saadra Madayan, who were all implicated by the military ambush-slay of Marawi City police chief Abner Santos in October 2015; and the spate of kidnappings and terrorism in the region. 
Petinglay said soldiers also recovered automatic weapons and improvised explosives, including crystal meth from the hideout of the Maute members. 
She said security has been tightened in both Lanao and Maguindanao – part of the Muslim autonomous region - as security forces continue to hunt down terrorists. “Operations are continuing against these lawless elements. Security has been heightened in those areas following the successful military operations against the BIFF and Maute group,” Petinglay said. 
There was no immediate statement from either the BIFF or Maute on the latest clashes. Both groups are allied and have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. (Mindanao Examiner)

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