Philippines: Ex-rebels warn of new militant group

MILF says ISIL-affiliated group complicated situation in Muslim south amid delay in establishing autonomous region

Philippines: Ex-rebels warn of new militant group

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Philippines’ one-time largest Moro rebel outfit warned Sunday that a new ISIL-affiliated militant group has complicated the situation in the country’s Muslim south amid a delay in establishing an autonomous region.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said in an editorial posted on its official website Sunday that the Maute group’s “engagements with government [are] not covered by terms of reference” -- as is the case with Moro and communist groups involved in peace talks with the government.

“Everything seems fair… Anything that moves is fair target,” it underlined.

Over the past year, the peace panels of the MILF and the government have expressed concerns that frustrations in majority Muslim provinces in southern Mindanao could mount due to the failure to pass an autonomy law sealing a 2014 peace deal.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was shelved for the May 9 presidential election won by Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration has since been engaged in efforts to consolidate present and past peace agreements with all indigenous Moro groups in an effort to end a decades-old conflict in which around 100,000 people have died.

On Sunday, the MILF warned that the Maute group -- which overran Butig town in Lanao del Sur province twice this year, only to be flushed out by the military -- treats “anything that moves” as a “fair target”.

A military offensive was launched late last month to clear Butig of the fighters, resulting in clashes that reportedly left 61 militants dead and 35 government troops injured. The MILF expressed sadness that“the greater damage or suffering has been inflicted on the civilians who were uprooted from their homes.”

The editorial underlined that the Maute group could be “hard to defeat immediately” as it “feed[s] on the frustrations of the people caused by the delay in the resolution of the conflict in Mindanao”.

While Duterte officially acknowledged Maute’s connection to ISIL earlier this week, the MILF said it remains “a big question” whether Maute has “firmly established links” with the terror group in the Middle East.

It acknowledged that “there are youths who are fascinated by the early successes or radical teachings of the ISIS [ISIL]”, and that many of them belong to “well-to-do if not prominent families” and are “secular-educated mainly from government institutions”.

While warning that the new group gains its strength from abhorring “the perceived compromises of their elders”, the editorial said its staying power was nonetheless questionable, as it does “not organize the people, as base of support”.

The MILF vowed that it would continue maintaining dialogue with “all sectors of our people”, describing its communications with other armed groups in the region -- including its breakaway outfit the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters -- as “producing good results”.

It warned, however, that success would be limited as the MILF lacks legal authority to enforce its methods.

“But once the [BBL] is passed into law and the Bangsamoro government is in place and the MILF is initially placed at the helm of government, then we have both the legal and moral responsibility to effect obedience. We can be an effective partner of government,” it stressed.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Aralık 2016, 15:31