UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Seven former Islamic rebels were killed in the southern Philippines in an attack claimed by the Islamic State, the military and police said on Saturday.
All the dead were members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest rebel group in the Philippines, before it began handing over its weapons last month under a 2014 peace deal, the sources said.
Lt. Col. Ernesto Guigner, who commands a local army battalion, confirmed that ISIS-affiliated men attacked a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camp near the town of Sherif Sayed Mustafa on Friday, where fighting erupted for several hours.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by the US site “Site” to monitor jihadist sites.
The jihadists said they had killed eight MILF members, but local police official Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Santiago told reporters that authorities knew of only seven deaths.
Residents reported seeing seven bodies loaded on a boat by the river in Sharif Sedna, about 900 km south of Manila.
MILF spokesman von Haq declined to comment on the incident.
The peace deal with the MILF ended a decades-long Islamist insurgency that killed 150,000 people, according to government estimates in the Mindanao region, where most members of the Muslim minority live.
Under the deal, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was handed over to run the autonomous region, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the Islamic State was seeking to turn it into a stronghold in Southeast Asia.
Hundreds of Islamic State-linked militants took control of the city of Marawi in Mindanao in May 2017, triggering a five-month battle that killed more than 100,000 people.
The MILF, sometimes in cooperation with the Philippine military, has carried out an armed campaign in recent years to drive out a number of pro-ISIS groups operating in the agricultural area around Sharif Sayyidina Mustafa.
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