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Philippines says air strike cripples Islamist militant group

The Philippine military said Saturday an air strike killed 11 armed Islamist militants, nearly wiping out one of several small armed groups operating in the south of the country. Acting on a civilian tipoff, two military aircraft attacked a mountainous village on the island of Mindanao, where fighters from the Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines organisation were meeting on Friday, a regional military spokesman said. Hours later, ground troops recovered the bodies of 11 Filipino militants including their alleged leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Dennis Almorato said. “They were planning to mount attacks in the Maguindanao del Sur (province). It was a good thing we were able to foil their plan,” he told AFP. He said that Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines is one of several militant groups either inspired by or linked to the Islamic State that are fighting to establish a caliphate in Mindanao, home of a large Muslim minority in the mainly Catholic Asian nation. “They bomb buses, harass our detachments, and conduct special operations to assassinate undercover soldiers and police,” he added. “Some of these groups used to have links (with the Islamic State), but now they are operating on their own in terms of their financial, logistical (requirements) and resort to extortion. “They no longer have foreign funding.” The strike near Datu Hoffer Ampatuan municipality left the group with only about four members still at large, Almorato added. About 30-35 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) also operate in the Maguindanao del Sur province in Mindanao, the military spokesman said. The BIFF is a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, then the largest armed group in Mindanao, which signed a peace treaty with the Philippine government in 2014 that ended decades of its deadly guerrilla insurgency.

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