According to a military statement on Tuesday, March 12, fierce fighting between suspected Islamist militants and security forces resulted in the deaths of 21 people in Maguindanao province on Mindanao. Military forces reportedly assaulted a militant camp near Indalan in the morning (local time) of Monday, March 11, using ground troops, helicopters, and bombers. Further gunfights were reported in the area on Tuesday. The military was targeting fighters in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Dawla Islamiya militant groups. One soldier was killed and seven others were wounded in the attack and up to 20 militants were killed. Further fighting is likely in Maguindanao and other areas of Mindanao in the coming weeks.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). MILF fought an insurgency against the government since the 1970s before signing a ceasefire agreement in 2014. Multiple armed criminal and terrorist groups are still active in the southern Philippines despite the ceasefire.
Individuals in the southern Philippines are advised to monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant and criminal activity, anticipate continued military operations, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. As a reminder, several Western governments advise against travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago due to the risk of kidnapping and terrorism.
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