Philippine Daily Inquirer

Army lieu­tenant, 13 BIFF rebels killed

- —STORYBYEDW­INO. FER­NAN­DEZ Military · Crime · Terrorism · Middle East News · Incidents · Warfare and Conflicts · Politics · Special Action Force · Mamasapano · Moro Islamic Liberation Front

CAMPSIONGC­O, MAGUIN­DANAO— Army2nd Lt. Ju­nib­ert Zo­nio and 13 mem­bers of the Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fight­ers (BIFF) were killed in clashes in Maguin­danao prov­ince on Wed­nes­day. Zu­nio died from gun­shot wounds he sus­tained when his pla­toon en­gaged at least 15 heav­ily armed rebels. The death toll has risen to 21 rebels and two sol­diers since fight­ing erupted on Sun­day.

CAMP SIONGCO, MAGUIN­DANAO— An Army lieu­tenant and a se­nior leader of an Is­lamic State-linked Moro rebel group were killed in clashes in Maguin­danao prov­ince on Wed­nes­day, rais­ing the death toll to 21 rebels and two sol­diers since fight­ing erupted on Sun­day.

Sec­ond Lt. Ju­nib­ert Zo­nio, of the 40th In­fantry Bat­tal­ion, died from gun­shot wounds he sus­tained when his pla­toon en­gaged at least 15 heav­ily armed rebels from the Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fight­ers (BIFF) at Barangay Pid­san­dawan, Ma­mas­apano, Maguin­danao.

Capt. Arvin Enci­nas, spokesper­son for the Army’s 6th Di­vi­sion, said Zo­nio had been serv­ing in the Army for just a year. “His wife was al­ready no­ti­fied,” Enci­nas said.

Rebel leader wounded

He said a se­nior BIFF leader was be­lieved to have been se­ri­ously wounded in the clash. Troops re­cov­ered the rebel’s blood­stained firearms, he added.

A sol­dier was also killed in clashes in Datu Saudi Am­pat­uan town, Maguin­danao, on Mon­day.

Zo­nio led troops from the 40th IB in block­ing BIFF fight­ers flee­ing from Army of­fen­sives in Datu Shar­iff Say­dona, Maguin­danao.

About 13 rebels were also killed in the clash, in­clud­ing a sub­leader iden­ti­fied as Mah Nand­ing, alias Com­man­der Mar­rox, who was be­lieved to be in­volved in the mur­der of 44 po­lice of­fi­cers from the Spe­cial Ac­tion Force in Ma­mas­apano in Jan­uary 2015.

14 firearms

“The num­ber of BIFF killed was based on two-way ra­dio con­ver­sa­tions we in­ter­cepted from en­emy side and from civil­ians and lo­cal of­fi­cials,” Enci­nas said.

He said ground troops re- cov­ered 14 firearms and the body of a BIFF fighter at Barangay Pid­san­dawan.

The firearms in­cluded four M-16s, three M-14s, two car­bines, one Garand ri­fle, one Ul­ti­max and three 12-gauge shot­guns.

Body parts lit­tered the ground

Cit­ing re­ports from the field, Enci­nas said body parts lit­tered the en­counter site. He said the body parts could be from slain BIFF fight­ers who were car­ried away by their flee­ing com­rades.

Enci­nas said 15 other Army troop­ers had been wounded so far in the gun bat­tles.

On Wed­nes­day, four road­side im­pro­vised bombs were found and dis­armed by Army ord­nance ex­perts in the boundary of Barangay Sepaka, Datu Pa­glas, and Barangay Pid­san­dawan, Ma­mas­apano, as gov­ern­ment troops were con­duct- ing clear­ing op­er­a­tions.

The mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion be­gan dur­ing the week­end, tar­get­ing BIFF leader Abu Tu­raipe, whose fac­tion had pledged al­le­giance to Mid­dle East-based ji­hadi group Is­lamic State.

Es­cape

Tu­raipe was be­lieved to have es­caped.

The BIFF is a splin­ter of the Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front (MILF), the main Moro sep­a­ratist group in Min­danao that signed a peace deal with the gov­ern­ment.

In­sist­ing on a sep­a­rate Is­lamist state in Min­danao, the BIFF re­jected the peace ac­cord and went on fight­ing while the MILF worked with the gov­ern­ment to­ward the es­tab­lish­ment of a new, big­ger Moro re­gion on the is­land with greater au­ton­omy.

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 ?? —REUTERS ?? SNIP­ING AT REBELS An Army sniper be­long­ing to the 2nd Mech­a­nized In­fantry Di­vi­sion trains his sights on rebels be­long­ing to the Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fight­ers in Maguin­danao prov­ince.
—REUTERS SNIP­ING AT REBELS An Army sniper be­long­ing to the 2nd Mech­a­nized In­fantry Di­vi­sion trains his sights on rebels be­long­ing to the Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fight­ers in Maguin­danao prov­ince.

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