MANILA, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Philippine security forces launched on Sunday airstrikes and ground assault on Islamist militants' lair in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines, killing 15 militants and wounding eight others.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, an army commander in charge of the operations, said the pre-dawn assaults on Liguasan marsh destroyed a bomb-making "factory" of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Sobejana said in an interview with a local media that 15 BIFF fighters were killed and eight others wounded in the offensive. The strikes also forced 1,700 families in the area to flee.
Sobejana added that two militants were captured, adding that up to 100 BIFF fighters were in the targeted area during the military assault.
He said the destruction of the facility where the BIFF members are making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is a big loss to the militants' capability to produce bombs. Sobejana said the troops retrieved several unexploded IEDs and firearms from the site.
"We used all our available capabilities, all available means. We employed reasonable forces to neutralize the target," Sobejana said.
"We hit their factory, their bomb factory exploded. It was hit by our air assets. We employed all available air and artillery assets," Army spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas said, adding that the BIFF militants were caught by surprise by the attack and scampered to escape the assaulting troops.
BIFF split with the MILF in 2010 to fight for a separatist Islamic state for Filipino Muslim minority in the Mindanao region. BIFF has up to 400 members, according to the military.
The BIFF is among the several militant groups in Mindanao that pledged allegiance with the Islamic State a few years ago. They are active in central Mindanao area, especially in Cotabato City, in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.