8 more BIFF members surrender in Maguindanao del Norte

John Unson - Philstar.com
8 more BIFF members surrender in Maguindanao del Norte
Brig. Gen. Michael Santos of the Army's 603rd Infantry Brigade (left) and the commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, Lt. Col. Guillermo Mabute, together facilitated Friday's surrender rite where eight gunmen renounced their membership with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Eight more members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, experts in fabrication of powerful improvised explosive devices, surrendered to the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion on Friday and pledged allegiance to the government.

One of them is Omar Kusain, a henchman of BIFF leader Kagui Karialan, whose real name is Mohiden Animbang, killed along with 11 others in an encounter on April 21 with Army Scout Rangers and personnel of the 1st Brigade Combat Team in a secluded barangay in Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao del Sur.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told reporters on Saturday that Kusain and his companions, Karno Datukan, Weng Aliman, Jowie Buludan, Allan Lauriano, Aladin Duwang, Kie Basalan and Norsamin Abedin, agreed to avail of 6th ID’s reconciliation program for violent religious extremists through the intercession of officials of the 57th IB and the 603rd Infantry Brigade.

“We are also grateful to the local executives of different municipalities and the police units in Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur for helping us secure their surrender,” Rille said.

The eight-member BIFF group, seven of them identified with the notorious Imam Bongos, who is wanted for 43 high-profile criminal cases pending in different courts, promised to thrive in peace in their hometowns during a symbolic surrender rite on Friday at the headquarters of the 57th IB in Upi, Maguindanao del Norte, in the presence of officials from different local government units and traditional community leaders.

The event was preceded by their turn over to the 57th IB of four assault rifles, two launchers for 40 millimeter grenade projectiles, a 9 millimeter Uzi machine pistol, four gauge 12 shotguns and improvised explosive devices that can be detonated from a distance using mobile phones.

Rillera said Lt. Col. Guillermo Mabute Jr. and Brig. Gen. Michael Santos, commanders of the 57th IB and the 603rd Infantry Brigade, respectively, and the municipal governments of Upi and and South Upi in Maguindanao del Sur and Teduray tribal leaders in both areas cooperated in helping convince the eight BIFF members to return to the fold of law.

Units of 6th ID had secured the surrender of 713 BIFF and Dawlah Islamiya members from different towns in Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur in the past 18 months, many of them reintroduced to mainstream society with the help of different government agencies.

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