MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday extended for another three more days its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said AFP chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered another extension for the clearing operations in the affected areas.
“Due to ongoing operations and the objective has not yet been accomplished,” Cabunoc said when asked why the all-out campaign against the BIFF was extended again.
This is the third extension since the military announced that it was set to end its all-out offensives against BIFF members last week.
At the same time, Cabunoc said they are still verifying the location and condition of Filipino bomb maker and Abu Sayyaf member Basit Usman.
On the other hand, Army’s 6th Infantry Division public affairs officer Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said two members of the Philippine Marines were killed in an encounter with the BIFF from 4 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday.
Petinglay, however, declined to identify the Marine fatalities while their family has yet to be informed.
She added that clearing operations are ongoing at in the so-called SPMS (Salvu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak) Box, an area believed to be a stronghold of the BIFF.
Petinglay, however, could not say the number of casualties on the rebel side.
“Inaalam pa namin,” she said.
On Tuesday, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said government troops may be closing in on the members of the BIFF as fighting continues to intensify in Maguindanao.
Kakilala said government troops may have cornered the rebels in Barangay Pusao in Shariff Saydona town in Maguindanao.
The campaign against the BIFF was launched following the bloody Jan. 25 clash between elite commandos from the PNP-Special Action Force and combatants from both the MILF and BIFF in Mamasapano town. The clash left 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF fighters and five civilians dead.
The target of the police operation was to arrest suspect Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Usman. Marwan was believed to have been killed during the operation but Usman managed to escape. (MNS)