- Posted August 6, 2012 by
Philippine gov't condemns Muslim group's attacks in Central Mindanao
By Ben O. Tesiorna
The Philippine Government condemned the simultaneous attacks made by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) against military installations in different areas in Maguindanao province Sunday evening.
The attack in the municipalities of Talayan, Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao; and Midsayap in North Cotabato came at a time when the Muslims were celebrating the holy month of Ramadhan and perpetrated no less by a Muslim armed group.
In the released statement of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, she said that "the attacks initiated by this lawless group during Ramadhan only demonstrate their disrespect for this holy month of our Muslim faithful, and their disregard for innocent lives that can be displaced or lost during their irrational assaults."
"This act of aggression of the BIFM is 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, foremost of which is the ceasefire mechanism that continues to hold on the ground and kept the peace for our communities," said Deles.
The BIFM is not part of the MILF, and thus is not covered by any ceasefire agreement. Formerly known as Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the BIFM is led by Ameril Umbra Kato who, together with his followers, was dissociated from the MILF who declared him as a “bougat or one who defies or does not obey an order.” Kato shortly formed his own group since then and has been pursued by the government forces for engaging in lawless actions.
"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," Deles said.
"As the Government and MILF panels start this week the 30th Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 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 and bring peace to our people who have suffered the most," she added.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao OIC Governor Mujiv S. Hataman also condemned the aggression.
"The act is especially reprehensible during this time of the Holy Month of Ramadhan, when devout Muslims are in the observance of fasting and are supposed to exercise utmost restraint. It is an utter disrespect of Islamic values and of the lives of countless civilians who will have to endure the effects of conflict even in the midst of the holy month," the governor said.
Hataman appealed to all stakeholders to help stop this latest round of violence in the province and prevent its possible escalation.
"The BIFF should uphold Islamic values and respect for civilian lives more than any other interest and to exhaust peaceful means to address valid grievances.
We likewise appeal to the peace panels of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) not to get distracted by this isolated incident and allow it to affect the encouraging gains in the peace process," he said.
One civilian and two Moro fighters died as a result of the attacks. Four militiamen were also wounded as thousands of civilians fled their homes.
BIFM rebels simultaneously harassed military detachments of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in the towns Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, Datu Piang, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Ampatuan.
Military installations in Barangay Kapinpilan, Midsayap and an Army-militia base in Pikit, both in North Cotabato, were also attacked by BIFM using rifle grenades and assault rifles.
A BIFM official identified as one Abu Misry admitted over the radio that they launched the simultaneous attacks “to retaliate the death of our comrade under the hands of the military.”
“It was not an offensive, it was only harassment to retaliate the atrocities committed by the Army against our comrade named Mohammad,” Misry was quoted as saying. BOT