Philip­pines blames Is­lamic mil­i­tants

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANILA:

The Philip­pine gov­ern­ment blamed Is­lamic mil­i­tants yes­ter­day for bomb at­tacks that left 52 peo­ple in­jured dur­ing the mainly Catholic na­tion’s Christ­mas hol­i­days. An ex­plo­sion ripped through fight fans watch­ing a box­ing match in the cen­tral town of Hi­lon­gos late Wed­nes­day, while six peo­ple were hurt in a road­side bomb at­tack on the south­ern is­land of Min­danao the same night. Po­lice said 13 peo­ple were also in­jured in an­other blast out­side a Catholic church dur­ing Christ­mas Eve mass on Min­danao on Satur­day.

“It looks like they are em­ploy­ing di­ver­sion­ary tac­tics else­where to ease mil­i­tary pres­sure on them,” De­fence Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana told re­porters. Two small Min­danao-based Is­lamic mil­i­tant groups, the Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fighters (BIFF) and the Maute group, are sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the blasts af­ter they formed a tac­ti­cal al­liance and be­gan shar­ing bomb-mak­ing tech­nol­ogy, he added.

The BIFF is a break­away fac­tion of the Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front, the coun­try’s largest Mus­lim rebel group, which has been ob­serv­ing a cease­fire with the gov­ern­ment. Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, who be­gan his six-year term in June, has sought to pur­sue peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with the front, while or­der­ing a crack­down on Min­danao rebel fac­tions that spurned his peace drive.

Like the Maute group, which has fought skir­mishes with gov­ern­ment forces in an­other area of Min­danao this year, the BIFF has been seen us­ing black flags as­so­ci­ated with Is­lamic State group fighters in Iraq and Syria, the mil­i­tary has said.The third group tar­geted in the mil­i­tary crack­down is the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for bomb­ings and kid­nap­pings and some of whose lead­ers have also pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic state group. — AFP

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