Army execs, rebel leaders on Khilafah: What is it?

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SOLDIERS enforce tight security measures at the Iligan City port following a series of bombings in Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato City and other parts of Mindanao. RICHEL V. UMEL/INQUIRER MINDANAO

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Military officials are either unaware or are keeping mum about the Khilafah Islamic Movement (KIM), the group being blamed for the July 26 bombing in Cagayan de Oro City that killed eight people and wounded at least 40 others.

Not even the rebel groups Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) could say what KIM really is.

Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, head of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the military still has to be briefed about the new group.

“We don’t have any information yet about that group,” Cruz said by phone.

Von Al Haq, MILF spokesperson for military affairs, said he also does not know anything about KIM.

“We’re not sure if this exists or not,” Al Haq said.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of the BIFF, said his group also has no information about KIM.

“We are still confirming it,” Mama said by phone.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said KIM is an umbrella group of rogue members of the MILF and the BIFF who want to sabotage peace talks between the MILF and the government.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has identified a certain Usman Hapids, alias “Mam Man,” as the KIM member who carried out the De Oro bombing.

On Tuesday, Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Executive Secretary and antiterror czar Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Philippine Center for Transnational Crime director Felizardo Serapio Jr. met with the officers of the Western Mindanao Command and local chief executives in the region.

Bautista, however, refused to talk to the media.

Gen. Rey Ardo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, also declined to issue a statement, saying he was still busy with the visiting security officials.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said she and the other local government officials were briefed about KIM.

“They gave us a threat assessment,” said the mayor.

Salazar quoted Gazmin as saying KIM is composed of “disgruntled groups that would want to be part of the (peace) negotiations.”

“But for one reason, they were left out,” the mayor said, quoting Gazmin.

Col. Glen Macasero, head of the 103rd Army Brigade based in Marawi City, said the military was briefed about the KIM and its relationship with other threat groups in Mindanao.

“It’s more of a presentation about the KIM and its relationship with the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), BIFF, SOG (Special Operations Group), JI (Jemaah Islamiyah), but everything presented is for validation together with the PNP and AFP,” Macasero said. Julie S. Alipala and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

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