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BIFF bandits terrorize peaceful Maguindanao town
The hostilities in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao triggered panic among residents and forced them to run to safer areas while soldiers and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters traded shots for more than an hour.
Philstar.com/John Unson

BIFF bandits terrorize peaceful Maguindanao town

John Unson (Philstar.com) - May 8, 2021 - 1:33pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Some 50 members of a local terror group showed force in Datu Paglas town early Saturday, provoking a brief clash with state security forces that sent villagers running for their lives.

Datu Paglas is only about 10 kilometers from Buluan town, where the Maguindanao provincial capitol is located.

Members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were first spotted converging in the public market of Datu Paglas before dawn Saturday, as if bracing for an attack.

Local officials, among them senior members of the Datu Paglas municipal peace and order council, tried to convince the BIFF bandits to leave but their efforts went awry when the group fired at policemen dispatched to secure villagers residing in the immediate periphery of the market.

The BIFF, operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is tagged in all deadly bombings in central Mindanao in recent years.

The group has a reputation for attacking non-military targets, commercial establishments and public conveyances to avenge deaths of members in clashes with pursuing police and military forces.

Major Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF gunmen involved in the Datu Paglas incursion were followers of Imam Karialan.

Karialan, leader of one of three factions in the BIFF, is facing more than 30 cases in different courts for acts of terror, multiple murder and other heinous offenses.

The BIFF was founded by the late Ustadz Ameril Ombra Kato after he got booted from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 for violation of MILF policies and irreconcilable differences with members of its central committee, whose figurehead, Hadji Ahod Ebrahim, is now appointed chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The followers of Karialan escaped towards different directions after a running gunfight with troops dispatched by Uy to drive them away from the town proper of Datu Paglas.

Villagers confirmed seeing them carry five wounded companions as they scampered away.

“One possible reason for their show of force is to show that the BIFF Karialan bloc has remained strong despite the deaths of many members in recent encounters with our troops and the surrender of many from September last year to April this year,” Uy said.

The BIFF Karialan group lost 17 men in 13 encounters with units of the 6th ID from between January 17 to April 28.

Local officials and commanding officers of component-battalions of 6th ID had also secured the surrender in batches of 31 followers of Karialan via backchannel dialogues during the period.

The now reforming former followers of Karialan are being reintroduced to the local communities by the 6th ID and different agencies of the BARMM regional government. 

BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTER
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