Four Moro Islamic Liberation Front Members Killed in Ambush in Southern Philippines

Local authorities said four members belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed during an ambush in Shariff Aguak municipality in Maguindanao del Sur province on April 15th. The four MILF members belonged to the organization’s 118th Base Command, located in the area.

Ambush

The four individuals were riding their motorcycles and traveling to the town of Datu Hoffer in Barangay Limpongo when a group ambushed them in the town of Satan. The Philippine Army’s (PA) 6th Infantry Division said that the individuals were supporting the Philippine government’s counterterrorism campaign and “died from multiple gunshot wounds.”

Local officials said that a group linked to Maute Group-Dawlah Islamiya (MG-DI) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) allegedly conducted the attack. However, Lt. Colonel Reggie Albellera, Shariff Aguak’s police chief, said that the individuals were traveling to “attend a motor trail activity in Datu Hoffer” when individuals from the BIFF ambushed them. Albellera also said that the ambush was due to the “long standing ‘rido’ (clan war)” between the “two armed groups.”

Philippine Army Encounter

The ambush in Maguindanao del Sur comes after an “encounter” between soldiers from the PA’s 103rd Infantry Brigade and a group of DI-MG terrorists in Lano del Norte province. The attack occurred in the town of Lindongan, Munai municipality, Lanao del Norte province, on April 13th, according to a statement from the brigade. The brief firefight resulted in the deaths of three DI-MG members and one PA soldier wounded.

The brigade’s statement also said that the soldiers recovered six backpacks, three M-14 rifles, “one dummy gun,” and an unknown amount of 7.62mm ammunition.

The brigade’s commander, Brigadier General Yegor Rey Barroquillo Jr., said that the operation is the result of the unit’s “relentless drive to rid the Lanao provinces of the presence of DI [DI-MG].” The commander also said that the PA will continue conducting operations until every member of the DI-MG is neutralized. The unit began “pursuit operations” to locate and destroy the fleeing terrorists.

Analysis

The April 15th ambush against the four MILF members indicates that despite several hundred BIFF members surrendering to the Philippine government and the military killing several key leaders, the groups still have at least some capabilities to conduct small-scale attacks and ambushes against the Philippine military and the MILF on Mindanao. Furthermore, the ambush shows how the BIFF will continue to target the MILF due to the long-standing rivalry that began when the two groups broke apart in 2008. However, these attacks and ambushes occur in more rural, remote areas rather than in large towns and cities, either in the areas of Mindanao controlled by the Philippine government or the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This indicates that the BIFF lacks the capacity to conduct attacks on more significant targets and is limited to opportunistic attacks and ambushes.

The April 13th encounter indicates that the Philippine military is increasing its operations against the DI-MG to achieve its goal of eliminating the group by the end of 2024. However, like the BIFF, a brief firefight shows that the group is capable of conducting attacks against the PA that result in casualties. For example, the incident is the latest clash between the PA and the terrorist group in Lanao del Norte province in four months. The previous attacks, one each occurring in February and March, resulted in the deaths of ten soldiers and several others wounded. The PA sustained these casualties during these firefights, while each of the groups successfully fled the area after the incidents. These encounters illustrate that the PA will continue to have difficulties eliminating the group by its stated goal of the end of the year.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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