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50 killed as soldiers overrun rogue Moro rebels’ camp in Maguindanao

A BARRAGE of fire from 105mm howitzers backed by Air Force helicopter gunships and followed by ground assault resulted in the flushing out of rogue Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) fighters in Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao, Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division commander, said on Wednesday.

Ardo said the whole-day assault was completed late Tuesday afternoon after the troops captured Hills 166 and 714, former communities of the Teduray tribe that the rebels turned into a training ground for young recruits.

“Our estimate is more than 50 of them [gunmen] have been killed and more than 20 were wounded,” Col. Mayoralgo de la Cruz, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, said.

De la Cruz said the death of 27 has been confirmed.

No casualties were reported on the government side.

De la Cruz said at least 20 gunmen were also confirmed wounded. 

The BIFM is led by Ameril Umbra kato, former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who was expelled from the organization last year for rejecting the prospect of having a peace agreement with the government.

Earlier, Ardo agreed with the peace panels of the government and the MILF that tagged Umbra kato and his followers “spoilers” of peace in Mindanao.

“We’re coordinating now with the local government of Datu Hoffer and other government agencies, such as the agriculture department, on how to take care of those places to prevent the return of these rogue fighters of the BIFM,” Ardo said.

The MILF earlier condemned Umbra kato and his men for sowing violence in Maguindanao. The front believes that Umbra kato’s attacks were meant to frustrate the peace negotiations.

“However, we do not know what they get from this offensive.... Did they ably project their martial prowess? The answer is no. They are only confined in the small corner of the province. So, what did they gain, if ever? Nothing, except putting in the consciousness of people that they are still there, alive and kicking. But in exchange, their safe haven is now [a] free-fire zone,” the MILF said in its editorial at its web site

The rogue fighters were operating in the fringes of the MILF’s Camp Omar.

Umbra kato himself is facing a string of criminal cases before different courts for his involvement in the violent attacks against government forces and civilian communities in Central Mindanao in 2008 after the Supreme Court junked the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Ardo said efforts were also being done to convince the Teduray tribe to return to its original abode in order to develop the lands.

Lt. Col. Prudencio Asto, Ardo’s spokesman, said soldiers continue to mount offensives against the beleaguered fighters to totally flush them out from the area.
“With the capture of Hill 166 and Hill 714, farmers nearby can now grow their crops without fear of attacks from the bandits,” Asto said.

More than 10 people have been killed since the BIFM mounted attacks that started in August against military and police detachments and/or outposts in at least five towns in the province.

Director General Nicanor Bartolome, National Police chief, sent several teams from the Special Action Force  to help the military pound Umbra kato’s men. 

Zaff Solmerin | BusinessMirror.Com.Ph | August 15, 2012 | Article Link


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