Military tiptoes into BIFF-MILF conflict in Cotabato | Inquirer News
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Military tiptoes into BIFF-MILF conflict in Cotabato

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Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao – The military has decided to step into the conflict between Muslim rebels in Pikit, Cotabato, and Pagalungan, Maguindanao, to protect civilians, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said here.

Catapang, who came here for Wednesday’s turnover of 16 firearms from the Mamasapano incident by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the 6th Infantry Division will be sending soldiers to intervene and stop the hostilities.

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Since last week, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been clashing in remote areas of Pikit and Pagalungan, sending thousands of people fleeing to safety.

At least seven Pikit villages have become virtual ghost areas after BIFF gunmen came in and torched houses. The BIFF also occupied about the same number of villages in Pagalungan, which is adjacent to Pikit.

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“We have to look into this. While it could be only clan war, we have to step in to put a stop to the fight,” said Catapang, who added that the intervention would have to be done carefully through proper coordination.

“We are also at war with the BIFF so we have look into this so as not to complicate things,” he added.

Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza said more than 20,000 people from Pikit and Pagalungan, had been displaced in the fighting caused by a rift between the BIFF and MILF’s Commander Jack Abas.

So far, six MILF members – including Datukong Ampuan, an MILF commander — had been killed. The BIFF casualty was unclear.

“The ongoing tension in Pikit and Pagalungan is not a fight with the MILF. Our enemy here is only Commander Jack Abas because he vowed to push us out of the area in exchange of money,” BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama said by phone.

Mama said Abas launched the attack after Mendoza gave the MILF commander money to finance the operation against the BIFF.

Mendoza had denied Mama’s allegations saying the BIFF might have misinterpreted the projects the provincial government has been implementing in the remote areas of Pikit.

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“Abas is a very feudal man, like a datu. He does not want anyone to threaten his influence in the same territory, most especially if this person was his former subordinate,” Mama said.

Abas has maintained that the operation was against BIFF elements involved in criminality.

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TAGS: Abu Misri Mama, AFP, BIFF, Catapang, Cotabato, Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Jack Abas, Lala Mendoza, Maguindanao, MILF, Military, Pagalungan, Pikit
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