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Military and BIFF Clash in Maguindanao

Clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Moro breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) erupted yesterday in Maguindanao province, killing at least 17 rebels, various sources reported.

Though the real number of casualty has yet to be completely confirmed, what has been verified by the military is that there is no casualty on their part.

The clashes arose after the peace pact signing in Kuala Lumpur on January 25. The peace agreement, between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government, gives Muslims more autonomy in Mindanao and aims to put an end to a decades-old insurgency that affected civilians and killed thousands of people.

The military was said to have attacked the rebels with assistance from the MILF, which the latter confirmed as well. Sources said it all started when the military came across BIFF rebels at around 7 a.m.

Involved in the military operations were the 40th and 7th Infantry Battalions, said to be component units of the 602nd Infantry Brigade of the AFP.

Gunfire and explosions started on Sunday midnight, according to local leaders and members of peace and order councils in the municipality of Pikit in North Cotabato and of Datu Piang in Maguindanao. The commotion forced residents to evacuate for safety.

The breakaway group, created by Ameril Umbra Kato in 2011, vowed in the past to continue their fight for Bangsamoro independence and to disrupt the peace process.