MANILA, Philippines – After several months in Sulu and Basilan fighting the Abu Sayyaf Group, a battalion of the Philippine Marines has been redeployed to the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao on Tuesday, January 27, according to the military.
"This Marine Battalion has just been redeployed back to its mother unit which is the 1st Marine Brigade whose area of responsibility covers the coastal towns and Senator Ninoy Aquino [town] of Sultan Kudarat province, and the towns of Upi and Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao," said 6th ID spokesperson Captain Joan Petinglay.
A batallion is composed of up to 500 troops.
The redeployment takes place in the wake of a bloody clash between members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the province, although Petinglay stressed the redeployment is long overdue.
"It is not in any way related to the recent incident in Central Mindanao," she said.
Central Mindanao is a known territory of the MILF, which clashed with the SAF on Sunday, January 25, despite an existing ceasefire. The government is finalizing a peace deal with the MILF.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II called the incident a "misencounter."
The MILF said its members had acted in "self defense" and scored the PNP team's failure to coordinate with them, since they were entering a known MILF territory, as provided by an existing agreement between the government and the MILF.
The operation targeted Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as "Marwan," and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) bombmaker Basit Usman. (READ: Dead or alive? Top terrorist was cops' target)
The BIFF broke away from MILF as it does not believe in the peace track being pursued by the latter. Most of them are relatives and continue to live in the same communities, despite such disagreements. – Rappler.com