Eleven more members of rogue Philippine Muslim rebel group have been killed in five days of clashes in the south, raising the death toll on the enemy side to 31, the military said Thursday.
Military operations were focused on three towns in the province of Maguindanao, where members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were believed to be hiding, 6th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega said.
Dela Vega said those being sought include a BIFF leader named Ismael Abubakar (also known as Bungos), who has resorted to criminality in the southern Philippines since BIFF broke away from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), when the separatist group opted for a peace deal in favor of autonomy three years ago.
Earlier, the military erroneously reported that Bungos was one of two rebel commanders killed in the initial attack. But upon verification by ground troops who have managed to enter the rebel strongholds, it was learned that his slain nephew was mistaken for Bungos.
“The number of casualties that the BIFF suffered has already increased from the initial report of 20 of their members killed on the first day to at least 31 killed and another four wounded to date,” Dela Vega announced, as he presented firearms and other paraphernalia left behind by the gunmen.
He said the number could still rise “pending the verification and validation” of troops in the area. Military officials earlier said that seven soldiers were wounded in the clash.
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