The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has confirmed that Asian-based terrorist cell Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has forged an alliance with the rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, on Thursday said government forces have sighted Basit Usman, a bomb-making expert of the JI-affiliated terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), during a recent encounter in Maguindanao.
“We have established the alliance of the BIFF and Jemaah Islamiyah of Basit Usman because the BIFF has been using a lot of IEDs (improvised explosive device), and Basit was the one making them,” Hermoso said.
He added that Basit was seen fighting alongside the BIFF during a recent encounter with the military in Maguindanao.
Basit is believed responsible for the series of bombings in Mindanao for the past several years that have killed, injured or maimed innocent civilians that include last year’s bombing in Cagayan de Oro that left eight people dead and scores injured.
He is also on the wanted list of the US State Department, which has raised a $1-million reward for his capture.
Hermoso said it was highly possible that the JI is funding the BIFF’s bombing activities in Mindanao, adding that the BIFF was also getting a lot of money from its extortion activities.
He said they were now coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) and with some banks and other conduits to determine the BIFF’s other sources of funds.
Military sources also confirmed reports that the BIFF like the communist New People’s Army was also harassing and coercing a number of politicians to pay protection money.
“Yes, they coerced [the politicians]. If they would not come across, they would liquidate them, set up an IED. We are still looking into it, but we are sure that it is extortion because they similarly did it to (the contractor of an) irrigation (project) of the (National Irrigation Administration) in North Cotabato,” added the source who requested anonymity.