MILITARY and counter-intelligence operatives predict a major shake-up in the leadership of the radical Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after one of its top operatives reportedly broke away and formed his own jihadist group.
Anti-terrorism expert Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza on Tuesday confirmed that Basit Usman, who was trained by Indonesian-based terror group Jemaah Islamiyah in bomb-making, left the BIFF in July and formed the Bangsamoro Justice Movement (BJM).
Usman, who is on the United States list of global terrorists, has a US$1 million bounty on his head. He is believed to be operating with Malaysian top JI operative Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, who himself has a US$5 million reward for his capture.
Mendoza, a former police intelligence official who currently heads the anti-terrorism think tank Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), said Usman’s group abides by the teachings being espoused by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The man responsible for foiling the terrorist plot “Oplan Bujinka” by al-Qaeda members who planned to hijack commercial planes and use them for suicide flights to attack several targets in the US hinted that Basit’s move would result in some major policy and operational changes in the BIFF and other terror groups operating in Mindanao.
Mendoza said Usman and his group have pledged their allegiance to ISIS and are now on track to propagate their adopted beliefs and doctrines.
He added that Usman’s new group is also linked with another group called al-Hansar Khilafa, which means supporters of the caliphate.
“There’s a similar group [al-Hansar Khilafa] in Pakistan and Syria [that is a]member organization of ISIS,” Mendoza pointed out.
A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1978, he said among Usman’s recruits are Ustadz Ali Tambako, a close associate of BIFF founder Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, and Abdul Jan Pagao, a former political affairs officer of the BIFF.
Tambako was allegedly kicked out of the BIFF after he beheaded two men in Midsayap, North Cotabato, in September last year.
The BIFF itself broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over disagreements on peace talks with the government.
The BIFF wants to establish an independent Islamic state in southern Philippines while the MILF agreed to drop secession for autonomy.