A Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) commander and an Abu Sayyaf member were killed in a four-hour clash with Army soldiers and troops of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Al Barka, Basilan, Saturday, military officials said.

Killed were BIFF commander Basir Kasaran and Abu Sayyaf member Misuari Jamiri, Army 18th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Paolo Perez said.

Kasaran was the highest-ranking BIFF leader in Basilan and was also third in the Abu Sayyaf’s heirarchy in the province, Perez said in a text message.

One member of the MNLF, who worked along with government troops, also died in the fighting, he said.

The clash in Brgy. Kuhon Lennuh erupted around 5 a.m. and lasted until 9 a.m., Perez said.

Elements of the 18th IB “ambushed” Abu Sayyaf members with the help of MNLF members led by Ombong Malatin alias Commander Cobra, he said.

“Nauna sila (MNLF) with an intelligence team, then nag-reinforce ‘yung two platoons ko with mortars dahil naipit sila sa noong mag-pintakasi ‘yung ibang Abu Sayyaf,” Perez added.

Malatin is working with the Army because he has siblings who are among MNLF members integrated into the military, Perez said.

He said members of Kasaran’s BIFF group are also Abu Sayyaf members.

“Isang grupo lang ‘yan, same banana with different letters. Parehong suportado ng al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, pareho lang terorista,” he said.

Brigadier General Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, said the death of Kasaran is a “great blow” to both the BIFF and Abu Sayyaf in Basilan.

Kasaran was responsible for a series of atrocities against residents of Al Barka, including a massive looting incident in 2013, Galvez said.

“Kasaran led the Abu Sayyaf in ransacking houses in Matata, Kuhon Lennuh, and Danapa during the barangay election last year. While the people were casting their votes, his group and the Abu Sayyaf looted all the valuable items and belongings inside the unattended houses. Kinatatakutan si Basir sa Al Barka,” he said.

Jamiri, on the other hand, was a cousin of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Nurhassan Jamiri, Galvez added. (John Roson)

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