AFP terminates ‘Operation Darkhorse’ PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 03 February 2014 13:22

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officially terminated “Operation Darkhorse” yesterday.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said the operation resulted in the neutralization of 101 known “Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters” (BIFF) personalities of which 52 were killed and 49 wounded.

“Operation Darkhorse” also resulted in the recovery of several high-powered firearms, explosive ordnance and capture of four BIFF camps and the neutralization of a makeshift IED (improvised explosive device) factory in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao.

The latter factory is responsible for the production of IEDs used in bombings in Central Mindanao.

This success was made possible after the AFP’s request for a three-day (72 hour) extension, to go after the BIFF, was granted by the Joint Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The three-day extension was crucial in applying further pressure against the BIFF contributing to their neutralization in the areas of Cotabato and Maguindanao.

It allowed the military to press further into areas where the BIFF were entrenched and prevented the spillover of violence by containing the lawless elements in these areas.

The three-day extension was granted by the AHJAG and the MILF last Thursday as military operations against lawless elements was met with resistance from the BIFF.

Likewise, it showed the commitment of the MILF to rid its communities of the BIFF so that the peace process of the Bangsamoro would be unhampered.

The AHJAG is a joint effort of the government and the MILF to stop lawless elements taking refuge in its communities.

Prior to the approval of the extension, the Army’s 601st Brigade reported that there have been sporadic clashes because the BIFF splintered into smaller groups.

There were also many wounded among the BIFF’s ranks and these men were encouraged to coordinate with local officials, barangay officials to have proper medical attention as humanitarian consideration because they are fellow Filipinos.

On the government side, one soldier was killed in action while 20 others were wounded.

Zagala said eight civilians caught in the crossfire were also wounded.

All wounded casualties are now being treated in various health facilities in the area.

The BIFF has been a constant threat in the on-going peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF for a final political settlement.

The AFP has been successful in restricting the movements of the BIFF and has successfully prevented the spread of violence in nearby areas.

“The AFP’s focused military operations prevented the escalation of violence and were able to effectively limit their capability to sabotage or derail the on-going GPH-MILF Peace Process,” Zagala stressed.

However, many of BIFF’s members have standing warrants of arrest and their prolonged evasion will pose threats in communities where the brigands are contained.

Zagala stated that the AFP’s support operations will contribute to the successful arrest of target personalities who continue to be a threat to the peace and stability of communities in Maguindanao and neighboring provinces.

“Operation Darkhorse” was launched late last week by the Army in support of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s drive to effect warrants of arrest for BIFF personalities involved in various crimes including kidnap for ransom, murder, and other violent activities.

It provided military support to the PNP in their pursuit of BIFF personalities.

Zagala said the police, supported by the military, would still serve the warrants of arrest on BIFF personalities, including its commander Ameril Umra Kato.

“Our primary concern remains to be the safety and security of the civilians residing in the area where BIFF conflict remains, and the prevention of any spillover to other nearby communities,” Zagala pointed out.

The heavy fighting between government troops and the BIFF caused the evacuation of 9,465 families consisting of 35,334 individuals from the towns of Sharif Saydona, Rajah Buayan, Datu Piang all of Maguindanao and Pikit in North Cotabato.

Having successfully neutralized the BIFF threat in these areas, it is now safe for these civilians displaced by the fighting to return to their homes and go on with their daily lives.

Some communities have sustained heavy collateral damage due to the fighting and will have to be rehabilitated. This will be the challenge that the AHJAG and the government must now face.

“Having minimized if not completely eliminated the threat of the BIFF in these communities, we foresee their speedy reconstruction which will lead us to the normalization of these affected areas and eventually achieving lasting peace,” Zagala stressed.

Meanwhile, photos recovered by government troopers in a BIFF camp in Barangay Damablas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao confirmed earlier reports that they employed children soldiers.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said at least three child rebel soldiers were killed in the clashes in Maguindanao. The child soldiers are between the ages of 15 to 16 years old.

The AFP condemns the use of children in armed conflict. The use of child soldiers to perpetuate violence has no place in a civilized society.

Children are a zone of peace and by putting them in the forefront of armed conflict their rights are violated.

“We will continue our efforts to put a stop to the BIFF remnants’ atrocities and put them in the bar of justice while we maintain our support to the government’s peace efforts with the MILF who have already chosen the path of peace,” Zagala concluded. — CTB/PFN