MANILA, Jan 10, 2018 (AFP) – Militants who pledge allegiance to Islamic State have killed a soldier and wounded three civilians in bomb attacks in the southern Philippines, the military said Wednesday.
Security forces on the main southern island of Mindanao have been pursuing pro-ISIS armed groups following a five-month battle with militants for the city of Marawi last year that left more than 1,100 dead.
The soldier was fatally hit Tuesday while his unit was tracking Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters gunmen on a mountain trail near the town of Datu Unsay, regional military spokesman Captain Arvin Encinas told AFP.
“The dead soldier was involved in a clearing operation (against the BIFF),” Encinas added.
A roadside bomb apparently intended for a military convoy in the neighbouring town of Datu Hoffer wounded three civilians instead, Encinas added.
He said both military units were pursuing BIFF members who had clashed with security forces in the same region on Saturday, a firefight that left a soldier and five militants dead.
He said some members of the BIFF had been trained in making improvised explosive devices by Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian killed in a police operation in the same region two years ago.
“These are students of Marwan. There’s quite a few of them,” Encinas said of the bomb makers, referring to Zulkifli’s alias.
The Muslim minority of the mainly Catholic Philippines considers Mindanao as its homeland. Decades of armed rebellion in the region have claimed more than 100,000 lives according to official estimates.
Sporadic fighting has continued despite the defeat of the Marawi militants and a 2014 peace treaty signed by the main Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.