MAGUINDANAO: Government troops nabbed a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during an early morning clash on Friday in Rajah Buayan town here.
Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, police chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said Datu Naut Ali Sailali was in possesion of an M-16 rifle and a grenade when he was arrested.
Also recovered during the 6 a.m. operation were five M-16 rifles, a grenade and 6.3-kilo of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, said a team of soldiers were patrolling Barangay Sapakan when they encountered about two dozen BIFF rebels.
“It was fierce, the fighting in the village and we are sure that the enemies had suffered some casualties because there were bloodstains all over the areas where they withdrawn. We also recovered five M16 automatic rifles along the way and many BIFF uniforms and radio sets and backpacks,” said Del Rosario in a phone interview with The Manila Times.
He said troops were sent to track down the rebels, blamed for the series of attacks on military forces in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the similarly troubled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Del Rosario said no soldiers were killed or wounded in the gunbattle.
The military also blamed past bombings in Maguindanao to the BIFF – under former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato – which has been fighting security forces since January 27, a day after peace negotiators signed an accord with the MILF on how the country’s largest Muslim rebel group would lay down their weapons.
Kato broke away with the MILF in 2011 after accusing its chieftain Murad Ebrahim for abandoning their struggle for independence and betraying the MILF when he agreed to a secret meeting called by President Benigno Aquino 3rd in Japan in August 2011.
Kato claimed Ebrahim corrupted the rights of the Bangsamoro people, adding the MILF chieftain should have consulted his leaders before meeting with Aquino.
Kato and senior rebel leader Abdulla Macapaar were both accused by authorities as behind the series of deadly attacks in Mindanao in 2008 after peace negotiators failed to sign a Muslim homeland deal because the Supreme Court declared the accord unconstitutional.
Kato suffered a stroke in 2011 but his condition remains unknown, although there were reports that a new commander – Sheik Mohidin Animbang – has taken over the command of the BIFF, whose members were mostly former fighters of the MILF and rival group Moro National Liberation Front.