Airstrikes vs. BIFF coordinated with MILF: OPAPP

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MANILA — The airstrike carried out against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a local armed group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was conducted “with full coordination” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said Monday.

On Sunday, the 6th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army conducted military operations against a group of Daesh-inspired bomb-makers holed out in the southern portion of Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao.

The military operation was a combination of surgical airstrikes on confirmed targets and focused ground operations against the group.

“This operation was conducted with full coordination with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH). The targeted areas were also confined to locations that are far from communities,” the OPAPP said in a statement.

“The operation was successful, resulting in the eradication of identified IED (improvised explosive device) factories. Follow-up operations are also being conducted to ensure that terrorists are confined in the area,” the statement added.

The OPAPP statement was issued after concerns were raised on social media that the military offensive could adversely affect the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF.

To further allay any concerns, the OPAPP said that a coordination meeting among representatives of the Philippine government, MILF CCCH, MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), 6th ID, 602nd Infantry Brigade, and 7th Infantry Battalion was conducted immediately just hours after the airstrikes.

The meeting was presided by Maj. Gen. Dato’ Mohd Nazir Bin Haji Mami, head of mission of the 13th Mindanao International Monitoring Team (IMT-M13).

According to the OPAPP, it was agreed during the meeting that further coordination meetings will be held to discuss possible cooperation between government and MILF forces against the terrorists.

Another meeting was held Monday where it was agreed that a coordinating team will be established as the operating arm of the CCCH and AHJAG on the ground.

This team will be composed of representatives of the AFP, MILF, and local government of Pikit.

Meanwhile, the OPAPP assured that residents who fled their communities at the height of the military operation could now return safely to their homes.

Scores of residents reportedly fled their homes for fear of a possible spillover of hostilities in their respective communities.

“It was also agreed that the MILF ceasefire mechanism will inform evacuees from Pikit, North Cotabato that they should keep calm and return to their respective communities because they are not the target of the operation,” the OPAPP statement said.

“Also, 602nd IB commander Col. Alfredo Rosario was also able to meet with representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 12 and asked them to inform the evacuees that they can return home since the possibility of further airstrikes is now remote,” it added. -PNA

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