Sunday Jul, 12 2020 05:16:12 AM

Mangudadatu urges sobriety amid MILF-BIFF tension

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 16:15 PM Mon Oct 7, 2019
4
By: 
John M. Unson
Congressman Mangudadatu is worried of more BIFF-MILF clashes (File photo)

MAGUINDANAO - Officials are apprehensive of escalation of hostilities between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and a local terror group that killed seven MILF members last week.

The slain MILF guerillas, Manaut Musbil, Madz Maytum, Tongan Tot, Laguiali Ali, Pongan Ganda, Kho Mamaluba and Joemar Salansamen, belong to the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad guarding Moro villages along the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta from intrusion by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, or BIFF.

The BIFF, operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and coddling foreigners fabricating improvised explosive devices, boasted on Facebook having killed the seven MILF guerillas in an attack at Barangay Dasawao in Shariff Saidona town in Maguindanao on Friday.

Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, governor of Maguindanao for three terms that spanned from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2019, on Monday appealed to both sides to avoid fighting in populated areas.

Hundreds of villagers in farming enclaves around the scene of Friday’s deadly encounter --- Sitio Tinulosan in Barangay Dasawao --- have relocated to safer areas, anticipating a possible counter-attack by the MILF.

“I am calling on the BIFF to consider the continuing appeals by different sectors for its forces to stand down, to reintegrate into mainstream communities and support the peace process between the government and the MILF,” Mangudadatu said Monday.

He said heightened hostilities between the MILF and the BIFF can stifle the joint effort of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to restore normalcy in conflict-stricken areas in central Mindanao.

The MILF has been helping the police and military neutralize the BIFF in keeping with its two peace compacts with Malacañang --- the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

There are members of the MILF-led BARMM parliament who are also worried that Friday’s hostilities in Barangay Dasawao could spark more encounters in Maguindanao’s adjoining Shariff Saidona, Mamasapano, Salibo and Datu Saudi towns where there is BIFF presence.

A senior BARMM regional government official who asked not to be identified said Monday there is truth in reports purporting that one of three factions in the BIFF, the one led by Abu Toirafe, has 13 foreigners in tow, three of them Malaysians, two from Aceh, Indonesia and several Arabs from the Middle East.

“We are worried of the possible aftermath of the incident last Friday. The MILF has many supporters out there sympathetic to the families of those killed by ISIS-styled terrorists,” said the source.

The BIFF was founded in 2010 by the radical cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, who studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s as a scholar then of the national government while under President Ferdinand Marcos.

Kato started as commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command but got booted in late 2009 due over insubordination and irreconcilable differences with superiors.

The BIFF, led by clerics eloquent in stoking hatred for non-Muslims, is blamed for all bomb attacks in central Mindanao since 2011.

The Police Regional Office-BARMM and the Army’s 6th ID are now cooperating in securing the barangays where BIFF-MILF hostilities are likely to erupt.

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