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MILF moves to stop breakaway Moro troops from advancing to North Cotabato

/ 06:25 PM September 02, 2012

Ameril Umra Kato, the leader of newly formed Islamic group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (2nd from left), shouts along with his fighters “Allahu Akbar” as they raised their weapons in this file photo taken in the jungles of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has moved to curb the military activities of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) “in the interest of Moro civilians and the future of the peace process.”

Von Al-Haq, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that their operation to constrict the movement of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) troops in North Cotabato and Maguindanao has been going on for a week already.

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The BIFF is the armed wing of the BIFM, a faction led by Ameril Umra Kato (formerly the commander of the MILF’s 105th Base commander) that broke away from the MILF in mid-August 2011.  MILF soon expelled Kato from its roster.

Last Aug. 5, the BIFF attacked installations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. The offensives that lasted a week forced at least 20,000 people to leave their homes and communities.

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“We don’t want the civilians to be disturbed by these unnecessary military actions,” explained Al-Haq.

The clampdown on the BIFM, Al-Haq admitted, is part of the rebel group’s “law and order mechanism” that is implemented in MILF-influenced communities.

He added that when the clampdown started, BIAF forces were able to suppress the attempt of BIFF to attack North Cotabato.

“What we did was to position troops around their lairs. Our armed deployments are at least twice the known BIFF strength in particular areas,” al-Haq explained.

But he clarified that the MILF operation against the BIFM has not been undertaken on behalf or in cooperation with AFP troops through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

“The AFP did not invoke the AHJAG mechanism to pursue the BIFF elements,” he stressed.

“But we coordinated our troop movements with the government’s contingent in the joint ceasefire committee,” Al-Haq added.

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The BIFF is now holed up in a portion of the MILF’s Camp Omar in the hills of Guindulungan town of Maguindanao. With the help of supporters in Datu Piang and Mamasapano towns, it is able to mobilize forces towards North Cotabato, the other side of the vast Liguasan Marsh.

A week after the clampdown started, Al-Haq said the BIFF leaders started a dialogue with the BIAF leadership of the MILF.

On Sunday, the leadership of the MILF-BIAF General Staff met to consider the initial results of the BIAF-BIFF dialogue, Al-Haq revealed.

“At this stage, we continue to let them understand that the outcome of the ongoing peace negotiations is for all Moros to enjoy, not just the MILF and its mass supporters.”

Al-Haq also clarified that the dialogue did not aim to recruit them back into the BIAF fold but for them “to silence their guns.”

In the dialogue, he said, the BIFF has been represented by no less than its chief of staff, a certain Ustadz Carialan.

“Because of his illness, Ustadz Kato has been reduced to a figurehead of the BIFM,” Al-Haq disclosed.

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TAGS: Armed conflict, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, BIFM, Insurgency, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro rebellion, News, rebellion, Regions
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