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Government troops in Lanao del Norte on alert

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Security forces in Lanao del Norte were placed on high alert yesterday ahead of next week’s anniversary of the rampage by Muslim rebel groups in protest of the non-signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) seven years ago.

A security official said government troops have been deployed in several areas in Central Mindanao.

“The troops have already been moved and are now occupying strategic locations in the province as well as those in adjoining areas,” a senior military commander said.

The official said some groups identified with Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could launch sympathy attacks.

With the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) still being worked out, some vested groups might take advantage of the impasse by funding Bravo to launch the attack, the official said.

Citing intelligence monitoring, the official said Bravo and his group have already moved to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) founded by the late Ameril Umbra Kato.

Kato and his men launched the rampage in the provinces of Central Mindanao to protest the non-signing of the MOA-AD that the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional.

Bravo, who used to command the MILF’s 102nd Base Command, launched the sympathy attack along with Kato, the former commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

The two groups led by Bravo and Kato attacked the towns of Kauswagan and Kolambugan in August 2008.

The attacks left 24 people dead, including a senior Army officer, with several houses and buildings in ruins. The attacks followed a series of bombings in Iligan City a day earlier.

 Following the non-signing of the MOA-AD, Kato declared he would no longer support the MILF peace negotiations with the government.

He later broke away from the MILF and formed the BIFF, resuming attacks against government security forces in Central Mindanao in a bid to form an independent Islamic state of Mindanao.

Kato was killed in a military-initiated intelligence sting in April this year in Guindulungan town.

 Before his death, Kato was monitored to have been visited by Bravo on several occasions in his lair in Maguindanao.

At present, Bravo has more or less 1,000 followers, more than 200 of them fully armed and hiding in the mountains in Lanao del Norte.

“There’s an active monitoring of Bravo and his group’s movement to prevent a repeat of what happened seven years ago. With the BBL still hanging in the balance anything can happen,” the military officer said.

ABDULLAH MACAPAAR ACIRC AMERIL UMBRA KATO ANCESTRAL DOMAIN BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BASE COMMAND BRAVO BRAVO AND KATO CENTRAL MINDANAO KATO
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