All-out offensive vs BIFF over

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Monday, March 30, 2015

MANILA. In this Feb. 4, 2015 file photo, Philippine Armed Forces Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang points to the map where the alleged clash between elite police commandos known as Special Action Forces (SAF) and Muslim rebels took place on Jan. 25 during a news conference at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines. A monthlong Philippine offensive against hard-line Muslim rebels ended Monday, March 30. (AP)


MANILA (Updated) -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ended on Monday its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), AFP chief-of-staff Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

Catapang said the AFP has achieved its objective, which is to neutralize more than 50 percent of the BIFF members and to capture its bomb factories and lairs.

"Effective today, March 30, the all-out offensive against the BIFF will be ended," Catapang said.

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The said military operation against the BIFF was launched on February 25 after the BIFF's series of attacks in several areas in Cotabato and Maguindanao as an act of revenge against the leadership of Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza, who is allegedly funding the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to eliminate the BIFF.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF.

Catapang said the operations aim to capture Filipino bomb-making expert Abdul Basit Usman, who is reportedly being coddled by the BIFF's breakaway group, Justice Islamic Movement (JIM).

Usman was also one of the high-value targets of the police Special Action Force (SAF) operation in Mamasapano in Maguindanao in January 25, which killed 44 SAF commandos, 18 Moro rebels and five civilians.

Catapang said the all-out offensive military operations resulted in the death of 139 BIFF members, injury to 53 others, and arrest of 12.

The clashes also displaced 120,000 villagers at the height of fighting, and about 30,000 have returned home as the clashes eased, he added.

Catapang said that 10 soldiers were killed during the month-long operation.

He said a smaller number of troops would continue to hunt the rest of the rebels, specifically Usman, alleged to be a bomb maker and trainer with links to the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network and a suspect in several deadly bomb attacks in the south.

Washington has offered a $1 million award for Usman's capture and prosecution. (With AP/Sunnex)

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