MARAWI CITY: The military is temporarily suspending its offensive operation in Butig, Lanao del Sur against jihadists supporting the Islamic State (IS) in observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of Marawi City-based Philippine Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, told reporters that the move was to respect their rights to fast peacefully in their respective homes.
Murillo made the announcement after the troopers overran on Friday villages controlled by the jihadists and one of their camps, Darul Iman.
Recovered from the encampment were black flags of the IS, bands engraved with IS logos, old weapons, ammunitions, improvised explosive devices and other bomb paraphernalia.
At least two soldiers were killed and five others were wounded during the successful operation.
The military claimed to have killed 37 on the side of the radical jihadists, but various sources confirmed only 12, including a 25-year-old college student who quit schooling in Iligan City to fight alongside the “caliphate soldiers.”
There were also reports that among those killed in the 10-day skirmishes were young members of the MILF including Nawawie “Wowie” Mimbantas, son of MILF founding member Abdulaziz Mimbantas.
Last April, IS Ranao, previously known as Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM), claimed to have recruited around 100 militants from the ranks of the MILF, which was downplayed by the largest Muslim rebel group.
The 15,000-strong MILF has signed peace agreements with the Philippine government, but the peace process was stalled when lawmakers of the previous Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Meanwhile, Ramadan, the ninth month of the hijri calendar, which requires Muslims to fast from dawn until sunset, will start either on Monday or Tuesday in the coming week depending on the appearance of the moon.
In its bulletin, the Moonsighting Committee Worldwide (MCW) said there is a possibility that the moon can be sighted in the western region at around 3 a.m. and can be easily observed worldwide on June 6.
The Regional Darul Ifta in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RDI-ARMM) has set a moon sighting schedule this Sunday (June 5) after sunset to confirm the appearance of the moon.
Once the crescent moon is sighted, Filipino Muslims have to start fasting on Monday or on the following day.
Alim Abdulmuhmin Mujahid, RDI-ARMM executive director, said its office in five provinces of the ARMM had set synchronized moon sighting events using a Newtonian reflector telescope recently provided to the Ulama [Muslim clerics] including those in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
They have also designated focal persons for the event in Maguindano, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, who are in close coordination with the neighboring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore. This is to resolve the disagreement of Muslims in different parts of the country regarding the start and end of Ramadan.
RDI-ARMM also disseminated online the official calendar of the Ramadan for the Muslim Filipinos with local timings.
“The Ramadan prayer time calendar was calculated accurately per municipality based on the formula given to us by the PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration),” Mujahid said.