Maguindanao police chief: IS-linked BIFF continues to recruit young Moro

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 07 Oct) — The Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) continues to recruit young Moro in Mindanao, luring them with at least P50,000 outright cash and P10,000 monthly allowance, the chief of police of Maguindanao province said.

Colonel Arnold Santiago, Maguindanao police director, on Sunday revealed the information following the clash between the BIFF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on October 3 that killed seven from the MILF.

“The BIFF members are going around in remote communities to continue recruiting young Moros, especially those uneducated because they can easily be lured. They are offered cash to become IS fighters,” he said, adding that potential BIFF recruits are indoctrinated with the wrong teachings of Islam, including violence.

Potential BIFF recruits are indoctrinated with the wrong teachings of Islam, including violence, he noted.

To counter the IS recruitment, Santiago said the provincial police office are sending representatives to talk at the madaris (Islamic schools) or with the ustadz (religious scholar) to propagate the “true essence of Islam,” which is a religion of peace, said Santiago, a lawyer.

Discouraging young Moros from joining the BIFF, he stressed that for Muslims in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the real war “is the war to eradicate poverty and hunger.”

October 3 clash

Santiago said the October 3 clash, which lasted for four hours, erupted in Barangay Dasawao, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, birthplace of Esmael Abubakar, alias Kumander Bungos, leader of one of the three BIFF factions.

He said the BIFF men under Abubakar went to the village, which is under MILF control, brandishing their high-powered firearms, which triggered the firefight. Santiago noted that the two sides have a longstanding “rido” or clan war due to a land dispute.

In a statement on Monday, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the firefight erupted between the MILF combatants and the ISIS-affiliated Turaype-Dawla group.

Santiago did not debunk Galvez’s claim when sought again for comment on Monday.

According to Santiago, the MILF members have long requested the BIFF members, some of whom are also their relatives, to refrain from coming to the village with their high-powered firearms.

Santiago said that given the peace agreement that government and the MILF signed in March 2014, the MILF wanted to avoid a situation where the presence of the heavily-armed BiFF could trigger aerial bombings or military operations that would cause civilian displacement.

Rommel Banlaoi, chair of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, earlier said foreign IS fighters continue to arrive in Mindanao, despite the defeat in Marawi City, to help local militant groups establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia.

On May 23, 2017, the IS-aligned Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups seized Marawi, resulting to a five-month urban combat with government security forces that displaced over 350,000 civilians and left the core of the city in ruins. Some 1,100 individuals died, mostly Islamic militants.

Banlaoi said the foreign terrorist fighters monitored to have entered Mindanao came from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, France, Tunisia, Iraq, Somali, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

But, he said, the bulk of the foreign fighters came from Indonesia and Malaysia, which both share maritime borders with the Philippines.

“The [foreign fighters] regard Mindanao as the new land of jihad, safe haven and alternative home base,” Banlaoi said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)