A breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formed by Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato clashed with regular forces of the rebel organization in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, the military confirmed Tuesday.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) clashed with members of the MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces’ (BIAF) 106th Base Command at the boundary of Brgy. Liong and Brgy. Alonganen 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Army 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Prudencio Asto said.

The firefight between BIFF members led by commander Abunawas and BIAF members under commander Adzmie stemmed from “property and land conflict,” Asto said, adding that there were reports of casualties on the latter’s men.

Brigadier Gen. Restituto Aguilar, senior military adviser to the government’s peace panel, said Abunawas and Adzmie’s families have long been fighting over a six-hectare agricultural land, but the feud has turned into an “organizational conflict.”

“Unfortunately, the rido has now heightened into an organizational conflict between the BIAF and the BIFF. If not dealt with the soonest possible time, this could lead to further casualties and displacement of civilians,” Aguilar said in a statement.

The clash occurred just two days after President Benigno Aquino III met with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other officials of the rebel group in Tokyo, Japan.

Kato allegedly formed the BIFF after being “sanctioned” by the MILF leadership for leading the BIAF 105th Base Command in attacks on civilian communities in 2008. (John Roson)

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