MANILA -- The military has terminated its operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), claiming it has neutralized many members and captured several camps.
In a statement, Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said “Operation Darkhorse” resulted in the death of 52 BIFF members and injury of 49 more. He said four BIFF camps were seized, as well a makeshift IED factory in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.
One abandoned camp in Barangay Damablas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao revealed photos of child soldiers used by the BIFF.
“The Army's 6th Infantry Division said at least three child rebel soldiers were killed in the clashes in Maguindanao. The child soldiers are between the ages of 15 to 16 years old,” Zagala said.
Because of the neutralization of the BIFF, civilians can now return to their homes, he said.
“Some communities have sustained heavy collateral damage due to the fighting and will have to be rehabilitated…Having minimized if not completely eliminated the threat of the BIFF in these communities, we foresee their speedy reconstruction which will lead us to the normalization of these affected areas and eventually achieving lasting peace,” he said.
Operation Darkhorse was launched late last week by the Philippine Army in support of the PNP’s drive to effect warrants of arrest for BIFF personalities involved in various crimes including kidnap for ransom, murder, and other violent activities.
It was extended for three more days until Sunday after a request that was granted by the Joint Ad Hoc Joint Action Group of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The BIFF attacked just days after the two parties signed the last annex of the peace agreement.
“The three-day extension was crucial in applying further pressure against the BIFF contributing to their neutralization in the areas of Cotabato and Maguindanao. It allowed the military to press further into areas where the BIFF were entrenched and prevented the spillover of violence by containing the lawless elements in these areas,” Zagala said.
He said one soldier was killed in action, while 20 others were wounded.
Eight civilians were also caught in the crossfire. All of them were wounded and are now being treated in various health facilities.
“We will continue our efforts to put a stop to the BIFF’s remnants atrocities and put them in the bar of justice while we maintain our support to the government’s peace efforts with the MILF who have already chosen the path of peace,” Zagala said.