• Rebels attack troops in Maguindanao

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Two soldiers were killed when Muslim rebels detonated a roadside bomb that destroyed a military truck in Maguindanao on Thursday.

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    Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Freedom Fighters (BIFF), owned up Thursday’s attack in the village of Meta in the town of Datu Unsay.

    He said BIFF fighters also attacked a group of soldiers in another village in Datu Unsay, sparking a firefight, with no casualty on the BIFF side.

    Mama said troops continue to attack Muslim communities in Maguindanao, especially in areas where BIFF is actively operating.

    “We are just fighting for the rights of every Muslim and we shall continue our offensive because this is a fight for justice, a fight for freedom,” he told The Manila Times by phone from his hideout in Maguindanao.

    Army officials and their spokesman at the 6th Infantry Division did not answer phone calls or messages made by journalists trying to get more details about the latest attack.

    Last month, the BIFF also bombed a convoy carrying soldiers in the same village and killing and wounding at least five infantrymen. The convoy was carrying Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, when rebels detonated a bomb planted at the Meta Bridge.

    The military has blamed the BIFF for the series of attacks on government forces in Maguindanao. It also linked the rebels to past bombings in the province. The BIFF— under former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel leader, Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato—has been waging a secessionist war after splitting with the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2011.

    Kato accused MILF leader Murad Ebrahim for abandoning their struggle for independence and betraying the rebel group when he agreed to a peace deal with Manila.

    Kato and another 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.

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