• An alphabet soup of terror groups

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    The police were still piecing together the evidence to pinpoint the perpetrators of the Cagayan de Oro City blast late last month, when explosions ripped through Cotabato City and Sharif Aguak in Maguindanao one after the other.

    In the CDO blast, the target was a group of doctors and medical sales representatives.
    The intended victims in the Cotabato City bombing were anybody who happened to be nearby. In each explosion eight people perished and scores were wounded, and all had nothing to do with the cause or ideology of whatever terrorist groups that carried them out.

    The explosion in Sharif Saydona in Maguindanao injured seven soldiers. The government troopers were clearly the target, since the bomb, identified as improvised explosive device (IED), went off just when the vehicle carrying them was passing by. Fortunately, all victims are expected to recover.

    Just about everybody with a score to settle with everybody else is exploding a bomb these days, and it does not matter whether it is an IED or ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil (AMFO). One works just as well as the other. The IED that went off in Cagayan de Oro killed as many people as the AMFO that exploded in Cotabato.

    The problem is that an alphabet soup of jihadist groups have been cropping up lately, each trying to call attention to itself by setting off a bomb, and it does not matter who gets hurt in the process.

    President Benigno Aqauino 3rd, in a speech in Davao City, identified Al Khilafa al Islamiya (AKAI) as responsible for the latest atrocity. He did not say it, but this group is allied with Jemaah Amsharut Taulid (JAT), which in turn has links to Jemaah Islamiya (JI).

    To complicate matters further, there is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has sprung from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It is said that MNLF has unleashed BIFF, just for the sole purpose of reminding the government that it is still around.

    The supreme irony here is that the bombings come at a time when the Philippine government is about to conclude a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    If the two groups sound very much alike, there is a reason. The government years ago concluded a peace agreement with MNLF. That agreement led to the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARRM).

    Former MNLF fighters formed MILF. The reason couldn’t have been the provisions in the agreement they deemed injurious to Muslim aspirations. It could only be that a certain MNLF faction felt left out when power devolved to Chairman Nur Misuari.

    And judging from what took place later, the faction was right in its refusal to join the agreement.

    After his election as ARMM governor, Misuari started living like an Arab potentate from whom he undoubtedly took inspiration. The opulent lifestyle of his four families could only be sustained by appropriating government funds that properly belonged to his Muslim constituents.

    Meanwhile, the MILF has grown in strength and prestige. It has in fact fought the government to a standstill. For that reason, the government has turned to it to attain peace in the region.

    A week ago, Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator, dismissed Misuari’s group as a spent force. The statement was not entirely true. It was reckless, to boot. It merely betrayed an impatience to cut the deal with the government and get on with the establishment of Bangsamoro to replace ARMM, and consign MNLF to memory.

    If only things could be that simple. The President himself suspects that the MNLF is behind the spate of bombings, to derail, he says, the peace process. Unfortunately, the MNLF is just one group.

    The MILF itself has also rogue members, working at cross-purposes with the mother organization. It is observed that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other kidnap for ransom gangs are originally MILF splinter groups.

    No one knows what other groups with a potential for mischief are out there waiting in the wing.

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