NorthCot on heightened alert following threats from BIFF

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 19 Feb) – North Cotabato is on heightened alert following threats from the spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that it would attack the provincial capitol.

Senior Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police chief, said all entry and exit points from the Ligawasan Marsh, where the BIFF is expected to be coming from, have been secured. The military, he said, is providing support to the police, although the capitol has been functioning normally with no visible changes in its security.

“We have intelligence information the bombs set off by the BIFF in North Cotabato since last month emanate from the Ligawasan marshland,” Peralta said

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama, in a phone interview Thursday, warned that they would attack the provincial capitol of North Cotabato, claiming the governor is supporting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), from whom the BIFF broke away in early 2010.

Mama alleged that North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza is funding the MILF, under Commander Jack Abbas, to drive away his group from the outskirts of North Cotabato.

The BIFF and MILF clashes – triggered by a feud between MILF Commander Jack Abbas and BIFF chief operations officer Mohaiden Animbang alias Kumander Karialan –started about two weeks ago and has displaced at least 18,000 civilians in Pagalungan and Datu Montawal, Maguindanao, and in Pikit, North Cotabato.

“This is the reason why Jack Abas and his group are determined to drive us out of North Cotabato. It is impossible since we have BIFF forces who are natives of the province,” Mama said.

Mendoza vehemently denied Mama’s allegations. She said she has no power over the MILF but her office has been providing livelihood assistance and projects to Moro communities, including in areas where the MILF operates.

“That could have been mistaken as support to MILF,” Mendoza said.

“Whether MILF or not, if they are in North Cotabato, they can benefit from the provincial government’s projects,” she said.

“I have nothing to do with their conflict. That was clan war or family feud and everybody knows about it,” Mendoza added.

Von Al Haq, MILF spokesperson, also the governor had nothing to do with the family feud.

Peralta said the police are on full alert versus followers of the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino aide Abdul Basit Usman. Usman is reportedly still alive but wounded in the January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.