MILF confirms IS militants seen in Lanao Sur border

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SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has confirmed the sighting of some 100 militants suspected to be Islamic State (IS) members at the border of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao particularly in Buldon municipality near Mount Cararao.

MILF spokesman Von Al Haq on Friday said their forces stationed in Buldon are on heightened alert along with the Philippine Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion following the sighting of the suspected militants.

However, Al Haq, added he was not sure if the armed men were Maute members or are there to reinforce the terrorist group still fighting in Marawi City.

He said it is “positive” when asked by reporters about President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim in a televised speech in Davao City about the IS militants sighted in Buldon.

Duterte announced during the anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City, that armed men were sighted in the Lanao Sur-Maguindanao borders and they could be IS militants.

The Army is verifying the sightings and sent troops near Butig town, the hometown of the Maute brothers who led the Marawi City siege.

In his speech, Duterte said he was planning to lift martial law in Mindanao but the recent situation in Buldon made him think twice.

However, there have been no reported clashes between government forces and the suspected IS militants or between the MILF and the Maute group in Buldon as of Saturday.

Meanwhile, the military lauded the MILF for its cooperation in the on-going operations against the BIFF.

“The cooperation of the MILF leadership in adhering to the provisions of the ceasefire agreement was also acknowledged as the conduct of the military operations had been coordinated to ensure that no skirmishes between the government troops and BIAF occurred,” said Major General Arnel de la Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division.

BIAF. or Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, is the MILF’s military wing.

Dela Vega’s statement came after the MILF stayed away from fighting between the BIFF and security forces on Wednesday that killed one terrorist and wounded an Army soldier at the village of Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Mamasapano is a known MILF and BIFF stronghold whose forces had killed 44 Special Action Force members during a clandestine operation that targeted Malaysian bomber Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan.

WITH AL JACINTO

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