Tag Archive: Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Two Army personnel, including an officer, and six suspected Abu Sayyaf members were killed as government troops clashed with bandits who ambushed them in Al Barka, Basilan, on Monday, military officials said.

Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, identified the fatalities on the government side as Maj. Alin Kannung, executive officer of the 32nd Infantry Battalion, and Tsgt. Ferdinand Costan.

Six suspected Abu Sayyaf members were killed but only two bodies, identified to be those of a certain “Mingkong” and Mardan Sapilin, were recovered, Galvez said.

Four other soldiers, including Cpl. Julambre Sabri of the 18th Infantry Battalion, were injured during the clash while three Abu Sayyaf members wer reportedly wounded, he said.

The clash occurred around 3 p.m. while members of the 32nd and 18th IB were passing through Sitio Pagtawanan, Brgy. Magcawa, on military vehicles.

The soldiers were on their way to Brgy. Bohe Piang to distribute livestock and inspect future projects of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), when they were ambushed by about 30 fully-armed men, Galvez said.

The armed men are members of the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters led by Basir Kasaran alias Commander Basir and Musana Jamiri, he said.

“The government forces were subjected to mortar and sniper fires for three hours,” Galvez said.

“Naka-dismount naman ‘yung mga tropa natin during that and were able to fight back,” he said.

Kannung, a native of Tipo-Tipo, was a former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander who was integrated into the Armed Forces after the government signed a peace agreement with that rebel group in 1996, Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, AFP Western Mindanao spokesman, said.

After joining the AFP, Kannung had been “very active” in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and this is believed to be the cause of the bandits’ hatred on him, Gregorio said.

Kannung’s group was to distribute goats and other livestock as part of the 104th Brigade’s livelihood assistance to residents of Brgys. Kambug and Bohe Piang, when they were ambushed, according to the regional military spokesman.

The area is the “home base” of Commander Dan Asnawi, Gregorio said.

Asnawi commands an armed unit of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with whom soldiers figured in a bloody clash on Oct. 18, 2011. Nineteen soldiers and five MILF guerrillas died in that fighting.

Gregorio said all the soldiers who were injured in Monday’s clash have been airlifted to the Camp Navarro Station Hospital in Zamboanga City.

Members of the 18th IB, backed by members of the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, continued distributing livestock to residents of Brgy. Magcawa on Tuesday, despite the ambush, Galvez said. (John Roson)

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15 provinces under election watchlist

Authorities have placed 15 provinces placed under a watchlist for possible violence in the upcoming midterm elections, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said.

In a press briefing, Roxas identified the provinces as Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan.

The provinces, which are home to intense political rivalry, history of armed violence, loose firearms, and private armed groups, are like a “powder keg,” Roxas told reporters.

“Ang mga ito ang may pinaka-high risk na magkaroon ng karahasan,” he said.

More cops on duty, jails checked

Roxas said police task forces will be sent to each of the provinces to help policemen already assigned there in securing the elections.

Police officials that have relatives or classmates who will run for posts in those provinces will be transferred to other areas.

Roxas said jails in the 15 provinces will also undergo a “judicial audit” so authorities can keep tabs of prisoners during the election period.

“Ito’y dahil madalas sinasabi na ang mga preso pinapalabas para gumawa ng karahasan tapos ipapasok lang uli,” he said.

‘The heat is on’

Meanwhile, Roxas said police have already recorded 35 election-related incidents nationwide, including the 15 watchlisted provinces.

“Ngayon pa lang nagkakainitan na,” he said.

In Maguindanao alone, six government officials have already been killed and at four private armed groups were monitored, Deputy Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima, commander of the national police’s election Task Force SAFE, said.

Eighty-five barangays in the province are affected by “threat groups,” Purisima said.

Roxas said 60 active and 47 “potential” private armed groups are being monitored nationwide.

There are 25,065 “loose firearms,” or those in the hands of criminals and rebels, while there are 552,338 firearms whose licenses have not been renewed, he said.

“Kabilang ang mga ito sa mga baril na maaring magamit sa halalan,” he said.

MILF help welcome

Meanwhile, Roxas said he is “open” to suggestions that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which just signed a “framework” peace agreement with the government, be tapped to help secure the elections.

However, Roxas said he still has to consult Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Teresita Deles and chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen on the matter.

“You have to understand that there’s also been years of mistrust, gaps, but this could be a good confidence-building measure,” he said. (John Roson)

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One militiaman was wounded as government troops clashed with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Kabacan, North Cotabato, early Monday, authorities said.

Soldiers, militiamen, and police clashed with an “armed lawless group” led by a certain commander Kadatuan, in Brgy. Lower Paatan, around 6:30 a.m., Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao, commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion, said he sent 30 soldiers after police sought military assistance over reports that BIFF members were harassing farmers in the area.

“May isang nagko-complain na community because more or less 20 BIFF [members] ay nagsasaka raw ng mga lupa ng may lupa. Because of that sinamahan namin ang police… at around 6 o’clock e binaril ‘yung mga tropa, wala kaming nagawa kundi lumaban,” Hao told reporters.

A militiaman, identified as Romeo Pizarro of the Civilian Active Auxiliary, suffered a bullet wound to the leg during the 15-minute fighting, Senior Supt. Roque Alcantara, North Cotabato Provincial Police director, said.

It was was the first time for security forces to get involved in a clash with the BIFF since the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed their “framework agreement” for peace last week.

Hao and Alcantara said the fighting had nothing to do with the recently-signed agreement, which the BIFF strongly opposes.

The BIFF was formed by Ameril Umbra Kato in 2010 after failing to settle disputes with the MILF leadership. (John Roson)

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Two people were killed while two policemen were wounded when a bomb exploded at a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City early Thursday, police said.

A few hours later, a second bomb was found in the city. Another exploded in front of a commercial compound in Imelda, Zamboanga Sibugay, Wednesday night, injuring a teenaged boy.

Senior Supt. Gerardo Rosales, Cagayan de Oro City Police director, identified the fatalities as Rudy Jote, an employee of the Willshire Inn, and a certain “Toto,” a passenger vehicle dispatcher.

PO1 Rogelio Canilanza and PO1 Dexter Daño were brought to the Polymedic Hospital because of shrapnel wounds to the legs and back, Rosales said.

The explosion occurred shortly before 2 a.m. beside the Maxandria Hotel at the corner of J.R. Borja st. and Aguinaldo st.

Around 1:50 a.m., a desk officer of the hotel called the local police, seeking assistance for what appeared to be a bomb left by three unidentified persons, Rosales said.

Canilanza, Daño, and some other policemen went to the scene, but the bomb exploded while they were conducting a “visual investigation,” the city police chief said.

2nd bomb found

Chief Supt. Gil Hitosis, Northern Mindanao regional police director, said another improvised explosive device (IED) was found under a pick-up in the city around 7:30 a.m.

The second explosive, which was apparently made by the same group that bombed the hotel, was disrupted by policemen, he said.

All police units in Northern Mindanao have been placed under “full alert” and directed to increase visibility on the streets and conduct checkpoints to prevent the proliferation of bombs and firearms, Hitosis said.

Boy hurt in Zambo blast

Meanwhile, another bomb exploded at the commercial complex in Brgy. Poblacion, Imelda, Zamboanga Sibugay, around 7:40 p.m. Wednesday, injuring 14-year-old Alraffy Barabadan Bano.

An improvised explosive device went off in front of the M&M Alrafhi garments shop owned by Merpha Barabadan Bano, a relative of the victim, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, said.

Local police are still trying to determine the bombers’ identities and motive, he said.

Peace deal detractors behind blasts?

Hitosis, whose office supervises the Cagayan de Oro City Police, said he is not discounting the possibility that the explosions were carried out by groups who oppose the recently signed “framework agreement” between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Tinitingnan namin dyan ay ‘yung link ng explosion sa nearby areas namin… Alam mo naman na ‘yung govt natin ay may ongoing peace deal sa isang grupo at ‘yung isa namang grupo ay parang disgruntled. Bukod pa dun ‘yung isa pang grupo na mukhang ayaw din,” Hitosis told reporters in a phone interview.

The Moro National Liberation Front, who had signed a peace agreement with the government in Sept. 1996, warned that the accord with the MILF violates theirs and could result into unrest.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which broke away from the MILF, had also voiced opposition to the framework agreement.

Hitosis, however, noted that there was still no strong evidence linking the blasts to the peace deal. (John Roson)

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The government plans to integrate members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into the Philippine National Police under the framework agreement reached by their peace panels, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

“A consultation will be held to map out the plan,” Gazmin told reporters at an award-giving ceremony for disaster response teams in Camp Aguinaldo, Wednesday.

The plan is part of reintegrating MILF fighters into the society after they disarm and de-mobilize, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, whose office supervises the police, said at the same event.

“‘Yung mga talagang mahuhusay at nagpapakita na marunong silang sumumod sa disciplines ng armed services ay maaring ma-integrate sa armed services din, whether that is in the AFP or in the PNP,” Roxas said.

Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo, PNP spokesman, said the force will respect any agreement between the government and MILF if it is deemed to pave the way for peace in Mindanao.

“Kung ito ang magiging susi, kung magkakaroon po tayo ng sinasabi nating genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao, ay supportive po kami sa ganitong klase ng idea,” Cerbo said in a phone interview.

Reminded that some MILF members are facing criminal charges and included in the PNP’s most wanted list, Cerbo said: “‘Yan naman ay mapapag-usapan, kaya depende na rin kung ano ang mapagkakayarian ng both parties… kami naman ay open, sa ganitong usapin.”

Once the plan materializes, it will be the second time for the government to integrate members of a rebel group into its security forces.

In October 1996, then President Fidel Ramos ordered the integration of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas into the Armed Forces of the Philippines after the government and MNLF reached a final peace agreement the previous month.

The agreement provided for the integration of 5,750 MNLF members into the AFP and auxiliary services.

Meanwhile, Gazmin assured that the government will address the MNLF’s concerns over the accord with the MILF.

“Magkakaroon din ng consultation sa kanila (MNLF), hindi naman basta isusubo sa kanila ‘yun, magkakaroon ng mga interactions,” the defense chief said.

Television and newspaper reports earlier quoted MNLF officials, including chairman Nur Misuari, as saying that the deal with the MILF violates the one with the MNLF.

“That is a remote possibility,” Gazmin said, when asked whether he thinks there will be hostilities with the MNLF. (John Roson)

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Followers of Moro rebel leader Ameril Umbra Kato launched attacks in different towns of Maguindanao early Monday, firing at military installations and cutting off powerlines, authorities said.

Colonel Prudencio Asto, public affairs chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the attacks started around 12:30 a.m., with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) “harassing” detachments in Brgy. Cabengi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan; Brgy. Bagan, Guindulungan, and Brgys. Meta and Maitumaig in Datu Unsay.

All four detachments are located at the fringes of Kato’s mountain stronghold, Camp Omar, located at the boundary of the three towns.

Armed BIFM members also fired at the 1st Mechanized Brigade headquarters in Shariff Aguak and the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion headquarters in Brgy. Cabengi, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Asto said.

The 1st Mechanized Brigade is currently housed at the former provincial capitol beside a mansion of the Ampatuan family, so bullets also landed on the house, he said.

Also “harrassed,” around 6:15 a.m., were soldiers manning the detachment in Brgy. Salman, Ampatuan, near the site of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

“Lalapitan nila (BIFM members) ‘yung detachment o kampo, paputukan, saka aalis and then pagkatapos ng ilang minuto puputukan uli, ganun ang ginagawa nila, parang hit and run,” Asto said.

At least two BIFM members were killed as government troops repulsed the attacks while a soldier, identified as Cpl. Romel Mantos of the 603rd Infantry Brigade, suffered minor injuries.

Skirmishes were still going on until noon as troops conduct clearing operations near the attacked military installations. The BIFM deployed an estimated 500 fighters to carry out the attacks, Asto said.

Power posts cut down, hundreds flee

Senior Supt. Marcelo Pintac, Maguindanao provincial police director, said 11 municipalities were affected by the attacks as BIFM members cut electric posts.

“Pinutol nila ‘yung linya ng kuryente, ‘yung mga poste, pinutol nila,” he said, adding that even the provincial police headquarters has no power.

A military official in the area, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak, said the BIFM members used chainsaws to cut electric posts.

Loreto Rirao, head of the Office of Civil Defense in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said fighting was concentrated in the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Guindulungan, Ampatuan, and Shariff Aguak.

As of Monday noon, the OCD-ARMM has “validated” an initial 189 families as having been affected by the fighting. Classes in all the affected areas were suspended, he said.

Also, the affected areas are located along the Cotabato City-General Santos highway, so motorists were advised to take different routes, Rirao said.

“Closed pa ang kalsada, kini-clear pa ng military at wala pang makadaan ngayon,” he said, adding that this was also the reason why OCD employees could not validate the other families.

Asto, for his part, said all military units in the province were ordered to be on a “defensive posture” to prevent further attacks.

“Defensive action kami, we will punish those who committed these atrocities, we will also make them suffer the consequences, at ito’y inumpisahan nila,” he said.

Peace talks not affected

In Manila, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles condemned the attacks, but said these will not affect peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Kato was formerly a commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, but broke away and formed the BIFM after failing to settle differences with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

The attacks, led by BIFF chief of staff Ustadz Carialan, were initiated during the Ramadhan “only demonstrate their disrespect for this holy month,” Deles said in a statement.

“The BIFM is not part of the MILF, and thus is not covered by any ceasefire agreement… Definitely, our government forces are ready for necessary defensive actions to protect and ensure the welfare of communities should the perpetrators launch attacks again. Pursuit operations against Carialan and his men are being conducted to bring them to the bar of justice,” she said.

Deles believes the BIFM’s attacks were meant to derail the peace process between the government and the MILF.

“We assure the public that these incidents will not affect the substantial gains that we have carefully and persistently built with our counterparts… we remain firm in our resolve to continue engaging the MILF in the negotiation table until we are able to reach an agreement to finally resolve the conflict in Mindanao,” she said. (John Roson)

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The number of families displaced by fighting among members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front increased to almost 300 as the two groups clashed anew in Carmen, North Cotabato, on Friday, a military official said.

Colonel Prudencio Asto, public affairs chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said 287 families from Brgy. Tonganon are presently taking refuge in Brgys. Lawili and New Panay in Aleosan.

Around 6 a.m. Friday, the groups of commander Teo Minanimbong of the MNLF and commander Karim Sagadan of the MILF’s 110th Base Command clashed in Sitio Misalan, one of Tonganon’s sub-villages.

Firefight lasted for almost 15 minutes and resulted in the wounding of Abubakar Ali, 35, one of the leaders of Minanimbong’s group, Asto said in a text message.

Ali suffered a bullet wound on his stomach and was brought to the Aleosan District Hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, Asto said the volatile situation in Tonganon “worsened” when members of the village’s civilian volunteer organization joined the conflict.

However, the firefight subsided when a platoon of the 7th Infantry Battalion arrived for “peace enforcement,” he said, adding that the soldiers are still dispatched in the area and are monitoring the situation.

On Wednesday, Minanimbong’s group also figured in a skirmish with followers of Sagadan and commander Tarzan Dagadas in Sitio Misalan.

Three days earlier, Dagadas’ group reportedly “harassed” Minanimbong’s followers at the Katian Post.

The skirmishes between the MNLF and MILF members, which have been going on and off since late March, are said to be due to a long-standing family feud, not a war between the two Muslim rebel groups. (John Roson)

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Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin welcomed the suspension that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) imposed on three of its commanders for the deadly encounter in Al Barkah, Basilan, despite finding the sanction “very light.”

“Kahit very light ‘yung punishment na binigay, at least gumalaw sila, in-acknowledge na nagkamali sila,” Gazmin told reporters in an interview Thursday.

The defense chief made the remark after MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal announced that the rebel group suspended three commanders of its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, for the Oct. 18 clash.

Among those suspended were BIAF 114th Base Command sub-commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, whose men were involved in the fighting.

“We suspended three commanders… we suspended them for three months and then they are told to undertake education especially on the ceasefire agreement,” Iqbal said Wednesday.

“The fact that we punished our commanders is an indication that we also agree that the MILF had violated (the ceasefire),” Iqbal added.

Days after the clash, the military relieved from their posts four ranking Army officials for allegedly failing to coordinate a manhunt operation with the MILF. The four are now facing possible court martial proceedings.

“Lack of coordination” between both sides was blamed for the clash, which left 19 government soldiers and five rebel fighters dead amid their ongoing ceasefire.

“Kahit papaano, light man o heavy, at least nagre-react sila (MILF). In other words gumagalaw ang hustisya, kahit sa kanila,” Gazmin said of the MILF’s sanction on its men. (John Roson)

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Kidnappers freed a relative of Mayor Loreto Cabaya of Aleosan, North Cotabato, in Maguindanao Wednesday night, two months after holding the victim in captivity, police said.

Romy Cabaya was released past 10 p.m. in Brgy. Makir, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Senior Supt. Cornelio Salinas, North Cotabato provincial police director, said.

No money was paid in exchange for the release, Salinas said.

“He (Cabaya) was released after the negotiation between his sister and the abductors… mahirap lang itong pamilya nila, farmers lang, so wala talagang makukuha na anuman from them,” the police official said.

Mayor Cabaya, along with policemen and soldiers, fetched the victim in Brgy. Dalican around 11:15 p.m., according to a report from the Central Mindanao regional police.

The victim, a “distant relative” who works as a househelp of the mayor, was abducted in Brgy. Dualing, Aleosan, last November 19 while he was going home on a “habal-habal” from Midsayap.

Initial investigation showed that the abductors were “rouge” members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by commanders Kuyo and Taurus, Salinas said.

“Maayos naman ‘yung naging pagtrato sa kanya (Cabaya), he’s in good health,” the police official added. (John Roson)

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Suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members fired rocket-propelled grenades in Tulunan, North Cotabato, Tuesday night, damaging a government-owned heavy equipment, military and police officials said.

Colonel Leopoldo Galon, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said about 10 armed men fired two RPG rounds in Brgy. Tambac around 8:30 p.m.

One of the RPGs exploded near a backhoe, shattering the equipment’s front and left glass windows, while the other went off 25 meters away, Galon said.

Senior Supt. Cornelio Salinas, North Cotabato PNP director, said the backhoe is owned by the provincial government, which is conducting desilting operations along the Malasila River.

The explosions occurred inside the banana plantation owned by RNF Industries Corp., he said.

The armed men, led by commander Jabidi Abdul, were positioned 50 meters north of the target which is on the “fringes” of the Liguasan Marsh, Galon said.

Abdul, who is also known by the alias Beds, is a commander of the MILF “special operations group,” said a military source, who requested anonymity because of the “sensitivity” of the matter.

“Commander Beds is opposed to investors’ development of lands near the marsh,” the source added.

Galon and Salinas both declined to comment on the source’s information, but admitted that the area is a known “MILF territory.” (John Roson)

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