AFP suspects BIFF behind Mindanao blasts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 23) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines suspects that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was behind a series of blasts that rocked Cotabato City, North Cotabato and Maguindanao on Sunday.

AFP spokesperson BGen. Edgard Arevalo said Monday that the blasts could be retaliatory assaults of the BIFF, an offshoot of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is now in power in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The BIFF has also been earlier described as having links with the Islamic State group,

“The suspected perpetrators could be members of the BIFF who (have) suffered serious setbacks in previous operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Arevalo said in a press briefing.

Despite Malacañang deciding not to ask for another extension of martial law in Mindanao beyond the end of the year, Arevalo said the military will still be able to intensify security there through President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 55, which placed the region under a state of emergency following the 2016 Davao City bombing.

The military reported that 19 were injured, including one in serious condition, due to four separate blasts Sunday night. Also among those hurt are eight soldiers, the military said. Authorities earlier reported that 23 were hurt.

Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokersperson Major Arvin Encinas said witnesses described the suspects as teenagers aged around fifteen years old.