The military is verifying reports that six of the 15 fatalities killed in the military airstrikes in the past few days against the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operating in this province were foreigners, an Army official said.
“There were five Indonesians and a Singaporean who are confirmed to be with the terror group and could be among the 15 fatalities,” Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
“They were our primary target, and we are still validating their identities,” Sobejana said.
Sobejana said the airstrikes was launched Sunday and Monday after an aerial video confirmed the existence of a BIFF weapon and bomb factory in the middle of Maguindanao’s marshland. Fifteen members of the BIFF faction under Commander Toraife were killed, eight others injured and two bomb experts arrested.
A soldier of the 33rd Infantry Battalion who was part of the ground assault unit was killed during clashes Monday with fleeing BIFF members, the military said.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the 33rd IB chief, said he and his men had to wade through chest-deep waters of Liguasan Marsh to locate concealed BIFF positions.
Cabunoc said soldiers and police are tracking the BIFF remnants in a bushy area of the marsh.
He said Army informants told him that BIFF sub-leader Salahuddin Hassan alias “Orak” and some foreign jihadists are still trapped in the area after their boats were destroyed by the airstrikes and artillery bombardment. PNA