MANILA— The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is still verifying reports that foreign fighters or jihadists are helping the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the ongoing campaign in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.
This was stressed by Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, in an interview Sunday.
“Oo, merong binitawang salita yun mga taga 6th Infantry Division (Lt. Col. Gerry Bersana of the 6th Civil-Military Operations). Positive, may mga nakita dun. Pero hindi pa ma-ascertain kung sino-sino yung mga yun (Yes, the 6th Infantry Division mentioned something about that. Positive, they saw something there. But they cannot ascertain yet whom they have seen),” he added.
These individuals are foreign looking, the AFP spokesperson admitted, but said validation is needed to determine whether these foreign fighters are among those reported present in the five-month battle in Marawi City.
“Foreign-looking but we need to validate and ascertain. Hindi namin sure (if galing Marawi) pero malamang iba ‘to(We are not sure if they were from Marawi but it seems these are from a different place),” he added.
Padilla declined to comment on whether the sighted foreign terrorists are Caucasian-looking.
“They may be any nationality that’s why there’s a need to check further. Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang operations against BIFF, nangunguna diyan ay 6th Infantry Division sa ilalim ni Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega (Operations against BIFF are ongoing. It is spearheaded by the 6th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega),” he added.
Operations against the terror group started last November 15 and 17 after a large concentration of BIFF men was spotted in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, respectively.