Maguindanao town rises against IS-linked BIFF
COTABATO CITY — The local government of Rajah Buayan in Maguindanao has claimed to have driven Islamic State-linked militants out of the town through the active support of residents.
Rajah Buayan Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan credited the locals who volunteer information to the local government, the police and military for the achievement.
This way, authorities are able to keep tabs of the movement of the militants in the villages and quickly launch operations to pursue them, Ampatuan said.
“While we can’t say that our municipality is already absolutely drug-cleared, we can brag about its being BIFF-cleared now,” Ampatuan added.
He hoped their effort in Rajah Buayan could help “defeat extremism and prevent its growth in the province.”
Comprising 11 villages, Rajah Buayan shares borders with Mamasapano and Datu Piang towns was which host strongholds of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
It also connects easily with remaining BIFF strongholds in Cotabato province through the Liguasan Marsh.
Ampatuan said the local government had been campaigning on the town’s 25,000 people to shun violent extremism which is espoused by the BIFF.
The tide turned against the BIFF early this year when the militants tried to overrun an Army detachment in Rajah Buayan, Ampatuan recalled.
This earned the ire of the townsfolk.
“The Army has been the locals’ protectors from extortionists, terrorists and lawless gunmen who mulct them during the harvest season,” Ampatuan explained.
He said local residents and even elements of the 106th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front joined together to help thwart the attack.
The incident demonstrated to the BIFF that the local population is arrayed against them and their activities, according to Ampatuan.
Major Gen. Diosadado Carreon, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the military was still validating Ampatuan’s claims his town is free of BIFF.
However, Carreon lauded Ampatuan’s leadership in rising against the militants.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command chief, said local officials in Maguindanao and Sulu should emulate what Rajah Buayan did so they were able to help lick the problem of extremism in their areas.
“We can’t be there all the time, you are there all the time, so help us protect your communities,” Sobejana said./lzb
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