MILF opens Lanao Sur camp to evacuees who fled clashes between soldiers and extremist group | Inquirer News
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MILF opens Lanao Sur camp to evacuees who fled clashes between soldiers and extremist group

/ 09:15 PM February 28, 2016

ILIGAN CITY — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has opened one of its stronghold areas in Lanao del Sur to evacuees from the weeklong fighting between government troops and armed men known to harbor extremist ideals.

The arrangement to accommodate the evacuees in Barangay Sandab of Butig town was made through the peace mechanisms set up by the Philippine national government and the MILF, a news release of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

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Sandab village is a major bastion of the MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), in Lanao del Sur, and hosts a satellite office of its peace negotiating panel.

The OPAPP quoted Ameruddin Usman, member of the MILF Coordinating Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), as saying the hosting of the evacuees was coordinated with the front commander in the area.

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Usman estimated that “around 500 families were evacuated and secured in Barangay Sandab.”

He added that several more families “went to their respective relatives in the other barangays away from the encounter site.”

According to Maj. Carlos Sol Jr., head of the government contingent in the joint ceasefire committee, Barangay Sandab has enough facilities like school houses to serve as temporary shelters for evacuees.

Apart from providing sanctuary to the evacuees, Sol stressed that the continued cooperation between the government and the MILF was also shown by the BIAF’s decision to reposition its troops in Butig to prevent a clash with Philippine Army troopers.

Sol added that the repositioning of BIAF elements was also meant “to give the government forces the freedom to pursue operations against the lawless group.”

The clashes in Butig— a town located in Lanao del Sur’s border with Maguindanao— started evening of Feb. 20 when armed men harassed a detachment of government soldiers in Barangay Bayabao. The fighting has spilled over to nearby Barangay Poktan.

On Feb. 23, armed men ambushed soldiers in an area between Tugaya and Balindong towns, far across the vast Lake Lanao, in what was initially thought of as sympathy or diversionary attack to diffuse the strong military attention in Butig.

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The military has described the perpetrators of the Butig attack as belonging to a group composed of “foreign and local terrorists.”

But in Lanao del Sur, they are simply branded as “ISIS” as a reference to their harboring of extremist ideals of jihad akin with that espoused by the Middle Eastern terrorist network Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, a local commander of the MILF in Lanao del Sur has denied the involvement of his troops in the recent clashes in the province.

In a 59-second video clip circulated in social media by the group named Free the Bangsamoro Movement, Abdullah Macapaar, known as Commander Bravo, categorically stated that the MILF was not part of the fighting in Butig and Balindong towns.

“The MILF continues to be a party to a peace process with government, and as such, we in the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Northwestern Mindanao Front, will maintain our defensive posture,” Macapaar explained.

Macapaar also brushed aside reports he has cooperated with the local extremist group in Lanao del Sur.

“I remain loyal to the MILF because its leader, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, is a faithful follower of Allah and the Prophet Mohammad,” Macapaar said.  SFM

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TAGS: Abdullah Macapaar, Acts of terror, al haj murad ebrahim, Ameruddin Usman, armed groups, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Barangay Sandab, BIAF, Butig, Carlos Sol Jr., CCCH, Ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, clash, Commander Bravo, Encounter, Evacuation, extremist groups, Free the Bangsamoro Movement, gun battle, Lanao del Sur, law enforcement, lawless armed groups, Maguindanao, manhunt for terrorists, MILF camps, MILF Coordinating Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, Military, Military operations, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim, News, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, OPAPP, Peace agreement, peace negotiation, peace process, Philippine Army, pursuit operation, Regions, Terrorism, terrorist groups
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