BIFF on a rampage, burns 20 houses
COTABATO CITY—Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who entered and occupied at least seven villages in Pikit town, North Cotabato province, burned 20 houses in a rampage that is linked to its ongoing battle with a rival group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), police said.
SPO3 Norudin Solaiman, Pikit’s chief police investigator, said the attacks took place on Tuesday in Barongis, a village known to be populated by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which was not a party to the violence.
The BIFF, whose members are formerly with the MILF, has been battling MILF rebels under Jack Abas, the highest-ranking MILF leader in the area.
Solaiman said the burning of the houses could draw the MNLF into the fray. The MNLF signed a peace pact with the government in 1996.
More than 15,000 people have fled Barongis and the villages of Kabasalan, Buliok, Bago Inged, Bulol and Rajamuda. Hundreds more have evacuated in nearby Pagalungan town in Maguindanao for fear of getting caught in the cross fire in clashes that started last week.
Datukong Ampuan, also known as Commander Falcon of the MILF, and five of his followers, were killed.
The BIFF said it would step up attacks in North Cotabato, accusing Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of funding the MILF operation against them.
Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said Mendoza had given funds to Abas to attack BIFF.
“Lala (Mendoza) uses her power and money to bribe the MILF and drive us out of our territory. The governor used thousands of pesos to earn the loyalty of the MILF,” he said.
“The local MILF units are now taking direct orders from her,” Mama said.
He said the BIFF would seize any chance to attack North Cotabato towns or the provincial capitol in Barangay (village) Amas in Kidapawan City.
“If we will have the chance, we will not only raid the town or city halls, but we will also attack the provincial capitol,” Mama said.
Mendoza denied the BIFF allegations, saying she is not in a position to command or even influence MILF.
“Am I a commander?” Mendoza said.
She said the BIFF was putting malice in her delivery of government programs to communities that include villages with heavy MILF presence.
The governor said she had delivered livelihood projects, electrification programs, classrooms, roads, water projects and aid for evacuees.
She added, however, that the programs were being carried out in the entire province and not only in areas populated by MILF members or their families.
Von Al Haq, MILF vice chair for military affairs, also denied that the governor was behind the MILF offensives against the BIFF.
“This is a legit operation being conducted by the MILF,” Al Haq said. Jeoffrey Maitem and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao
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