Clerics assume command of BIFF


MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - A bloc of clerics on Friday announced they have assumed command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after unseating leaders loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The spokesman of the mysterious group, Abu Amir, told reporters that Imam Bongos, and his subordinate-commanders, including their spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, have lost ascendancy to lead the BIFF due to their allegiance to ISIS.

Amir on Thursday confirmed to the leading radio outfit in Cotabato City, the Catholic station dxMS and to selected print journalists their takeover of the BIFF leadership through a letter announcing that their revolutionary chieftain now is Imam Minimbang, most known as Ustadz Karialan.

“They are now so identified with ISIS while we are not. We are loyal to the cause of the Moro people and we adhere to the teachings on the Qur’an which we do not circumvent to suit bad interests,” Amir said Friday when asked to elaborate on what caused the change in the BIFF leadership.

Sources from the towns where the BIFF operates, among the barangay officials, said Karialan leads a bigger group of rogue Moro rebels. Many of them were former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) booted out for infractions of the MILF’s revolutionary policies and criminal offenses.

Like Bongos, Karialan is also wanted for a various criminal offenses, including multiple murder, harassment of civilians, and for mulcting excessive “revolutionary taxes” from peasant families in areas he and his followers roam around.

Misry, touted as “crackpot,” was quick to deny the reported ouster of Bongos, asserting they remain in control of the BIFF.

He said there is a possibility that the military could be behind the issue to drive a wedge between them and Karialan’s group.

The BIFF was established in late 2010 by the late Imam Ameril Umbra Kato, who studied Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia as government scholar during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos.

Kato started as chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, but bolted and organized the BIFF due to irreconcilable differences with his superiors.

The BIFF is not covered by the current ceasefire accord between the government and the MILF.

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