MILF will not yield 'SAF44' killers

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - Front Page -

MAGUINDANAO – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has flatly rejected demands by Philippine authorities to surrender dozens of its fighters tagged in the the brutal brutal slaying slaying of of 44 44 police police commandos commandos in in the the southern southern province province of of Maguindanao. Maguindanao.

The Department of Justice has already recommended the filing of murder charges against 88 people mostly MILF members and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who attacked and killed Special Action Force commandos in Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano town on January 25, 2015. The elite police unit was in a secret mission to capture Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, in his hideout deep inside the MILF territory, but eventually killed him after he shot and wounded two commandos.

The team was heading back to re-join over 300 other commandos deployed outside the village when MILF and BIFF forces attacked them, sparking a daylong battle that also left 18 former rebels dead.

The MILF signed an interim peace deal with the Aquino government in 2014 and it used the ceasefire agreement to take advantage and build up its forces and recruit young members, and acquire more sophisticated weapons, mostly from funding it was getting from the government and other international groups, according to intelligence reports.

The former rebel group said it will not yield to government pressure to surrender its members, saying the central committee of the MILF will deal with them, and later on claimed that most of those tagged in the massacre of police commandos were not their own.

It also distanced itself from the BIFF, whose members are also from the MILF, but both groups harbored Malaysian and Indonesian bombers who trained local rebels in handling explosives.

Last year, a purported cell phone video of suspected MILF members finishing off wounded police commandos emerged on Facebook and showed gunmen stripping off the dead of their combat gears as sporadic gun fires can be heard on the background.

The six-minute clip was uploaded in several Facebook accounts and went viral and provoked a deluge of angry public comments. It was later removed on Facebook. The video, believed recorded by one of the attackers, showed only his hand holding a .45-caliber pistol and shooting several times a wounded commando – his patch and uniform identified him as a member of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police – until he was dead.

The unidentified gunman then went on to strip other dead commandos of their combat equipment and gear as he shouted “Allahu Akbar” or God is great. The clip also showed other gunmen as they took turns in stripping more fallen commandos of their weapons and uniforms and they too shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they ran towards the river bank where the sound of automatic gunfire intensified and slowly faded after several minutes.

There was no immediate statement from the government on the refusal of the MILF to surrender those accused in the mass murder of police commandos.

Special Forces' soldiers during their operation in Basilan province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines in this undated photo released by the Western Mindanao Command.

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