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Philippines army says verifying reported deaths of foreign extremists

Air force launched an air strike in areas known to be harbouring Toraifi and his men

Manila: The Philippine military has said it is trying to ascertain if foreign militants were among the 15 extremists killed in a recent airstrike mounted against targets in Central Mindanao’s Liguasan Marsh.

According to Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, army units in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces — areas embraced by the Liguasan Marsh — are trying to confirm if there is truth to reports that foreign militants were among fatalities in the air strike mounted by the Philippine Air Force against an extremist faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Abu Toraifi.

He said that based on information coming from residents, at least four foreigners were among the 15 killed in the air strike last Sunday targeting facilities of the BIFF manufacturing bomb and improvised explosive devices (IED).

The air force launched an air strike in areas known to be harbouring Toraifi and his men.

Toraifi is leader of a BIFF faction that flies the black flag of Daesh and pledges allegiance to the extremist group.

“The targets of the airstrikes what were launched before dawn on Sunday in Kalbugan area in Pagalungan and at the border of General Pendatun and Lambayong town in Sultan Kudarat were BIFF bomb-makers Taib Dinggo and Abu Walid are suspected to be located,” Sobejana said.

Sobejana said that prior to mounting the attack against extremists, the Philippine Army conducted a coordination meeting this the parties involved which included officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The coordination meeting is conducted to make things clear, to avoid spill overs and collateral damages. The target of the coordinated operation which was launched early in the morning on Sunday was the group of Abu Toraifi who are the bomb makers,” he said.

“That the IED factory was hit by the rockets launched by the AFP. The destruction of the said factory was manifested by sympathetic detonations of IEDs when the rockets were fired and per bombing assessment, IEDs and its components are found,” he added.

He said the attack against the IED-making facility was necessary to prevent the BIFF-Toraifi faction from mounting bombings that could compromise the ongoing peace process in Mindanao led primarily by the MILF.

It can be recalled that late last month, the Senate and the House of Representatives had passed their respective versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a measure that aims to put an end to years of conflict in the South.

A consolidated version of the measure is yet to be passed by the two chambers, but President Rodrigo Duterte promised to immediately sign it once it is available.

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