Civilians Arming Selves Vs. BIFF, Jihadists

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - Examiner) (Mindanao

FARMERS AND CIVILIANS have armed themselves to fight off the jihadist group BIFF or Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters following a spate of deadly attacks on mostly Christian areas in the restive region of Mindanao in southern Philippines.

from Hundredsdifferent townsof menin central Mindanao have armed and formed themselves into a vigilante to defend their communities and farmlands from further attacks by the BIFF, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS. BIFF had killed dozens of innocent civilians in random, but sustained terror attacks in the region, and bombed power pylons aimed at weakening Mindanao’s economy and bring fear to the doorsteps of Christian communities.

In a clandestine show of force to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner and a few selected journalists, the vigilantes now calling themselves as group called Red God’s Defenders - burned an ISIS flag as a challenge to the BIFF and their determination to protect their own from terrorism.

A spokesman for the group, Asiong, said the BIFF attacks on innocent civilians and attempts by its allies and supporters to grab lands owned by farmers must stop immediately. “Pagod na kami sa mga karahasan ng BIFF, sa mga atake sa aming komunidad at sakahan. Hindi na kami papayag at lalaban na kami upang protektahan ang aming mga sarili at lupain,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said military forces cannot protect civilian communities at all times and they have to do something to defend themselves from BIFF attacks. Now, he said, even other Muslim groups wanted to take away their lands, saying, it belong to their ancestors.

The vigilantes were armed with high-powered weapons, mostly M16 and M203, and even Barrett sniper rifles and AK-47 assault rifles. It was unknown where they sourced or bought the weapons, but many of these were unlicensed or illegal firearms.

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Police and military officials did not give any statement about the new vigilante group, although other Christian groups are already operating secretly in many areas in central Mindanao – others openly and publicly admitting they are members of the socalled old anti-communist squad Ilaga.

Because of the BIFF atrocities, thousands of civilians remain in different evacuation areas in Mindanao – scared of returning homes for fear that rebels would launch another attacks on the military or villagers, especially in Sultan Kudarat province, as well as in nearby Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region.

About a dozen people had been killed in attacks launched by the BIFF who are fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in southern Philippines.

The rebels have attracted a number of sympathizers and recruits, although the army continues to downplay the capability of the BIFF to launch a major assault.

The army had the BIFF on the run following a massive campaign last year, but the rebels managed to regroup and recruit more members and armed them with automatic weapons bought from illegal gun dealers.

There were suggestions from various groups to open peace talks with the BIFF, whose members were mostly former guerrillas of the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014.

But many BIFF members were also radicalized with links to Malaysian and Indonesian jihadists being coddled by rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders in the troubled region.

(Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

Vigilantes calling themselves Red God’s Defenders set on fire a flag of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria during a clandestine gathering recently in Mindanao. The vigilantes vow to fight Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters - who pledged allegiance to ISIS - following the spate of deadly attacks on civilian communities in the restive southern Philippine region.

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