Maguindanao mayors urged to help arrest BIFF militants
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2015 - 6:24pm

MAGUINDANAO – The provincial peace and order council (PPOC) on Saturday urged mayors in Maguindanao to help identity all commanders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in their towns to hasten the efforts of the government to arrest and prosecute them.

In an emergency meeting Saturday, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairman of the inter-agency PPOC, and Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, also both asked the local executives to cooperate in locating the whereabouts of BIFF leaders, now subject of extensive police and military manhunt.

The PPOC meeting was held at the Army’s Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

“We also need to explain to our constituents that the government’s operation against the BIFF is a calibrated police action, not an offensive against the Moro people as being spread by some quarters trying to misinform the public,” Mangudadatu said.

Mayors present in the meeting had told Mangudadatu and Pangilinan that tension in the barrios soared high after the Armed Forces declared last week an “all out war” against the BIFF.

The BIFF, led by radical clerics, some of them graduates of secular Islamic schools in the Middle East and North Africa, is not covered by the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Two local officials had said some BIFF commanders have been operating all by themselves since its founder, the Saudi-trained preacher Ameril Ombra Kato, suffered a hypertensive stroke more than two years ago that left half of his body paralyzed.

A new group, the Saifullah, which is “sword of God” in Arabic, has reportedly splintered from the BIFF. The breakaway group is led by Ustadz Karialan, who started as a deputy of Kato during the early days of the BIFF.

Maguindanao’s police director, Senior Supt. Rudelio Jocson, said their intelligence units are now trying to establish the exact identities of BIFF leaders in the province in preparation for the filing of criminal cases against them.

BIFF bandits blocked for about three hours secluded stretches of the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway last Friday and opened fire on approaching vehicles, including the convoy of Pangilinan, who was on his way to Mamasapano, Maguindanao to meet there Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.

De Lima was supposed to inspect on Friday the surroundings of Mamasapano, scene of the deadly January 25 10-hour running firefights between police commandos and MILF members, and to talk to villagers.

AMERIL OMBRA KATO ARMED FORCES BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BIFF CAMP SIONGCO DATU ODIN SINSUAT DE LIMA EDMUNDO PANGILINAN OF THE ARMY ESMAEL MANGUDADATU MAGUINDANAO
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