COTABATO CITY: Representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the government and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) are jointly checking reports that foreign terrorists-linked militants are in Central Mindanao.
The scope of the verification covers communities proposed under a new autonomous political entity called Bangsamoro as envisioned in the peace negotiations with the MILF.
The probe began last Monday by the tripartite team at the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters in Barira, Maguindanao.
Officials said the search initially focused on Camp Kararaw, a suspected training hub of militants linked to the Jeemah Islamiah (JI) terrorist group, lying on the border of Barira, Maguindanao; Butig, Lanao del Sur; and Alamada, North Cotabato.
Governors Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of North Cotabato and Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur have reportedly issued statements expressing cooperation in efforts to rid their provinces of terrorist elements.
The onsite verification involves 120 representatives from the MILF, the government and IMT, a multi-national body overseeing the peace process, military authorities said.
Senior officials of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division were optimistic that the joint verification on the alleged presence in Central Mindanao of foreign terrorists would either confirm or disprove mounting public speculations and apprehensions on the issue.
“We support the (tripartite) initiative… towards that goal,” Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the 6th ID, said.
Alleged trainees at Camp Kararaw, numbering around 50 with ages from 16 to 23 and belonging to a group they called Ghurabah, are reportedly fighting for total Islamic governance under the principle of Khilafah, and opposed to the peace process.
According to Muslim clerics, Khilafah is an ideology practiced during the governance of the four caliphs of early Islam, during which full-blown Shariah Law was in force.
Khilafah militants believe that “everyone working for (democratic or monarchic) government is non-believer (of Islam)…even if they are imams, teachers or leaders,” an Arab scholar said in an emailed message to a Muslim Filipino journalist.
The crises in Egypt and Syria were partly triggered by militants espousing Khilafah ideology who have penchant in killing people opposed to their cause, the source said.
A freshman student from Lanao del Sur, who claimed to have trained at Camp Kararaw, told the Manila Times that Ghuraba militants had boasted about staging some of the recent attacks in Marawi City and nearby areas.
One of the attacks was the killing in Cagayan de Oro City last February of an American named Michael Alan Turner, a pioneering search engine optimization (SEO) service provider based in the Philippines, the source said.
He said the Marawi attacks included the ambush-slay of two soldiers in Army patrol vehicle at the Mindanao State University campus on August 9, 2012; the earlier killing of two soldiers visiting at a local Land Transportations Office; and the recent killing and torching of a professor and his assistant at an internet café in the same school campus.
Ghuraba militants were also behind the killing late last year of a soldier guarding the house in Marawi of Coco Rasuman, organizer of a busted local pyramid scam in Lanao areas, said the source, who asked not to be named.
An Islamic scholar operating a madrasah in Lanao del Sur had confirmed the emergence of a group of young Khilafah advocates voicing out their “extreme” principles inside mosques even in the presence of political leaders they bluntly accused as kafir (disbelievers).
MOH I. SAADUDDIN