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IS luring new fighters with cash, says PNP exec

Recruiters for terror groups target young, out-of-school Moros in Maguindanao
/ 04:19 AM October 07, 2019
IS luring new fighters with cash, says PNP exec

TERROR LINKS The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), founded by the late Ameril Umra Kato (second from left), is among the Islamic State-linked armed groups that the government is fighting in Mindanao. Esmael Abubakar (right) now leads a faction of BIFF. —Jeoffrey Maitem

BULUAN, Maguindanao, Philippines — Groups allied with the Islamic State (IS) continue to recruit young Moros, luring them with at least P50,000 outright cash and a P10,000 monthly allowance, a top police official said on Sunday.

Col. Arnold Santiago, chief of the Maguindanao Police Provincial Office, made the disclosure following last week’s clash between the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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Seven MILF fighters were killed in the four-hour clash on Oct. 3 at Barangay Dasawao in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town. The village is the birthplace of Esmael Abubakar, alias Kumander Bungos, leader of one of three BIFF factions, Santiago said.

BIFF members have been especially targeting the young, out-of-school Moros to take up arms, Santiago said in a telephone interview.

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“They are offered cash to become IS fighters,” he said.

The recruits, he said, were being indoctrinated with the wrong teachings of Islam, including violence.

The Oct. 3 clash erupted after BIFF men under Abubakar went to the MILF-controlled village, brandishing their high-powered firearms.

According to Santiago, fighters from the BIFF and the MILF have a longstanding “rido” (clan war) due to a land dispute.

The MILF, he said, had long requested BIFF members, who are related to its members, to avoid visiting Barangay Dasawao while carrying high-powered weapons, as this could trigger a gun battle that could result in civilian displacement.

Santiago also said that once the presence of BIFF fighters was detected in the community, government forces would launch military operations in the area, which would send residents fleeing to safety.

Foreign fighters

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Rommel Banlaoi, chair of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, earlier told the Inquirer that foreign IS fighters were still going to Mindanao despite their defeat in Marawi City in 2017, to help local militant groups establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia.

Armed men belonging to the Maute Group, which had pledged allegiance to the IS, laid siege to Marawi in 2017. Government forces engaged them in a five-month battle that ended with the killing of the group’s leaders, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, and their top lieutenants.

Banlaoi said the foreign fighters monitored to have entered Mindanao came from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, France, Tunisia, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

But the bulk came from Indonesia and Malaysia, which both share maritime borders with the Philippines.

Home base

“The [foreign fighters] regard Mindanao as the new land of jihad (fight against enemies of Islam), safe haven and alternative home base,” Banlaoi said.

To counter IS recruitment, Santiago said the Maguindanao police had been sending representatives to talk at the ‘madaris’ (Islamic schools) or with the ‘ustadz’ (religious scholar) to propagate the “true essence of Islam” as a religion of peace.

For Muslims in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the real war “is the war to eradicate poverty and hunger,” he said.

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TAGS: biff, Islamic State, MILF, out-of-school Moros
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