MILF task force vows to crush terrorist faction

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SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Task Force Ittihad of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has vowed to crush the so-called Third Force of the terrorist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has rejected calls to return to the fold of Islam.

The MILF task force has been running after this third faction of the BIFF since August 2 after its failed attempts to hoist the flag of the Islamic State (IS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in three towns in Maguindanao.

Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the implementing panel of the MILF, said their campaign against the bandit group is meant to prevent the spread of violent religious extremism in potential conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

Iqbal noted that the religious extremism being espoused by the group, led by Esmael Abdulmalik, is a turnaround from Islamic principles on tolerance, fraternalism and respect for people regardless of religions and races.

Abdulmalik, also known as Abu Toraife, was the former right-hand man of slain Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, who trained him on fabrication of powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Sheik Abu Huraira Udasan, the grand mufti of the central Mindanao Darul Iftah (House of Opinions), earlier declared “haram,” which means forbidden in Arabic, the activities of Abdulmalik’s group.

Hostilities between the MILF’s Task Force Ittihad and the group of Abdulmalik started last month when his men killed using an IED five of some 20 MILF guerrillas sent to convince him to renounce his links to his IS-inspired benefactors in the Middle East.

Iqbal said the Darul Iftah ruling obliges the MILF, which has an ongoing peace process with the Philippine government to help neutralize Abdulmalik and his followers, who are now hiding in swampy areas in
Maguindanao’s adjoining Salibo, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns.

Abdulmalik has reportedly been receiving money from his contacts in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Lebanon remitted to his group in small amounts to avoid suspicions through dozens of conduits who are overseas Filipino workers from central Mindanao.

The MILF already lost more than 10 members in hostilities with Abdulmalik’s group in the past five weeks.

Reports reaching the Maguindanao provincial police office and the headquarters of the Army’s 603rdBrigade and the 6th Infantry Division indicated that 27 followers of Abdulmalik have also been killed since the fighting began.

Iqbal is optimistic that the enactment into law of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, crafted jointly by the government and the MILF, is one concrete step toward preventing the spread of religious extremism in southern Philippines.

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