1,000 IS-linked militants to join Bangsamoro
DAVAO CITY—More than 1,000 pro-Islamic State (IS) militants have decided to rejoin their comrades in the Bangsamoro, convinced of the headway that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-led regional autonomous government had been making in the Moro homeland, the head of the former rebel group said.
Murad Ebrahim, chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), told the Inquirer by phone on Saturday that the MILF had been reaching out to their comrades in the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), about a thousand of whom agreed to return to their fold and join the Bangsamoro government.
The BIFF broke away from the MILF when the latter signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 and formed the core of the expanded Bangsamoro autonomous government. “We are still open for negotiation. The BIFF is divided into three splinter groups, but now there are 1,000 of them ready to return,” he said.
Ebrahim said the attack staged on Friday by a faction of the BIFF in Datu Piang town of Maguindanao, where a police car and part of a police detachment were burned down, would not affect those who chose to join the BARMM.
Murad, 71, said the Bangsamoro government had been forming a joint peace and security body composed of the police, military and the MILF to respond to security threats in the region.
He said the group was also reaching out to the Abu Sayyaf Group, which is responsible for the deadly suicide bombings in Sulu but no longer had a strong central leadership.
Both the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF remain a threat, Murad said, but “we are also trying to reach out to them, convincing them [to return to the government while] strengthening our security measures on the ground.”
In November, BARMM leaders passed a resolution urging the central government to extend their term for three years and postpone the regional parliament election set in 2022.
Ebrahim said more time was needed to put in place reforms that were slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the peace agreement, an appointed interim government, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, will administer the BARMM for three years until its first set of officials are elected in 2022. INQ