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6 Moro rebels, one soldier die in clash

COTABATO CITY – Six Moro rebels and a soldier were killed when military forces and outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) guerillas clashed anew in Datu Shariff Saydona, Maguindanao on Tuesday, the military said yesterday.

Colonel Lito Sobejana, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, said four more members of the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion and 10 BIFF fighters were also wounded during the skirmishes.

The slain soldier was named as Private First Class Varek Soria of 34th IB, while the wounded troops were identified as Corpora; Ireneo Bahian, Pfc. Kristian Andrade, Pfc. Melvin Ejada and Pfc. Marlon Gravillo.

Sobejana said intense fighting continued until noon Tuesday with the military using two MG-520 attack helicopters to support ground troops in retrieving wounded fighters.

He said the rebels were led by Kagi Karialan, the self-proclaimed leader of the BIFF group that ousted Commander Bungos, an anointed successor of the deceased BIFF founder Amerial Ombra Kato.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, urged Commander Karalian, who is facing various criminal suits, and his men to surrender voluntarily to avoid further bloodshed.

“It would be best that they surrender so that there will be no more bloodshed,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

Both Col. Sobejana and Gen. Pangilinan confirmed the six BIFF fatalities, saying their remains were retrieved and turned over to local officials and their relatives for proper burial.

Members of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team alongside representatives of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front ceasefire committees have proceeded to Sharif Saydona town proper to coordinate military movements and ensure that the skirmishes would not unduly involve MILF forces.

The MILF has forged with the government peace accords in 2014 that led to the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The BBL, which proposes the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindnao, was not passed by the 16th Congress.

President Dutrte in his State-of-the-Nation Adress on Monday asked the 17th Congress to pass the BBL minus the “contentious issues” for his administration to end the “historical injustice” among Moro people. (ALI MACABALANG)