Gov't, MILF urged to resolve BIFF threats
John Unson (Philstar.com) - December 29, 2015 - 10:27pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Beleaguered folks want the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help prevent a repeat of last week’s deadly attacks in Central Mindanao by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The two panels are bound by interim security agreements, including the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, to mutually cooperate in addressing security concerns in areas where there are MILF forces.

Barangay officials in peasant enclaves in Maguindanao’s Datu Abdullah Sangki and Ampatuan towns and in Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat province, which the BIFF attacked almost simultaneously on Christmas eve, have also confirmed that villagers threatened by possible harassments by the outlawed group have started arming themselves.

At least 13 people, among them eight innocent farmers, were killed in last week’s BIFF rampage, which also displaced more than a thousand families.

Four of the fatalities were BIFF gunmen killed in ensuing encounters with armed villagers and soldiers.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Wednesday condemned the BIFF attacks and called on affected communities to remain sober and refrain from retaliating.

He said the government is doing its best to address the security problems hounding the local communities.

“The attacks were acts of terrorism. No genuine, sensible revolutionary group, claiming to fight for a pro-people or any political cause, will harm non-combatants just like that," said Hataman, presiding chairperson of the ARMM’s inter-agency regional peace and order council.

The ARMM's Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) provided hundreds of displaced Maguindanao residents with food and other relief supplies in a series of operations early this week.

The relief missions of ARMM-HEART, which operate under Hataman's ministerial control, were led by officials of ARMM’s health and social welfare departments.

Local officials in Datu Abdullah Sangki and Ampatuan had also condemned the BIFF attacks, something they did not expect the group would perpetrate at a time when the Christian communities it raided were observing the Yuletide season.

Datu Abdullah Sangki Mayor Miriam Mangudadatu on Tuesday told reporters she was saddened by the hostilities in their municipality, which forced many of her constituents to evacuate to neutral grounds.

Local officials and barangay officials said they are convinced the GPH and MILF panels can do something, along with the police and military, to address the BIFF threat squarely.

The BIFF had warned of more attacks after its three-day rampage last week in response to government’s crackdown on local Middle Eastern-inspired jihadist factions.

Officials said four bandits were confirmed killed while five others were wounded in the incursions, met with heavy resistance from soldiers and armed villagers.

The seemingly crackpot Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said their harassment of peasant enclaves and military detachments in Central Mindanao last week were also meant to show their continuing opposition to the presence of state forces in Moro-dominated areas in the region, now a hotbed of Islamic militancy.

Mama told reporters early this week the attacks BIFF forces pulled off in the adjoining provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat were also to disprove assertions they have been weakened tactically by military offensives early this year.

BIFF commanders had said their deadly maneuvers this week were partly in retaliation for recent government offensives against Mindanao-based jihadist groups sympathetic to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Eight young members of a local Islamist group displaying the iconic black ISIS flag in their hideout in Barangay Butril in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat were killed by pursing combatants of the 1st Marine Brigade last month in an operation initiated on the behest of local folks threatened by their presence.

The Al-Qaeda-linked and now confessed ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf also suffered fatalities in a military offensive in Albarka town in Basilan more than a week ago, which resulted to the government’s takeover of its enclave in the municipality.

BIFF leaders have overtly been expressing allegiance to ISIS whenever they talk to journalists. 

ABU MISRY MAMA ABU SAYYAF ACIRC BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BIFF CENTRAL MINDANAO DATU ABDULLAH SANGKI AND AMPATUAN MAGUINDANAO NBSP SULTAN KUDARAT WEEK
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