JIHAD: War victims unite, threaten to launch ‘holy war’

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

MARAWI CITY – A shadowy group calling itself the “Meranaw Victims Movement” has threatened to launch its own jihad or holy war if a set of demands, among them government compensation for the destruction of Marawi and the victims of war between security forces and local IS militants in the besieged city in southern Philippines. the about Speakinggroup3 dozen– comprisingin masked Arabic, gunmen – released a 14minute video and statement on social media and stated the following demands: First, we would like to ask our kinsfolk from among the so-called ISIS/MAUTE Group to leave Marawi City at once and free their hostages, Muslims and Christians alike; Second, we would like to ask the Philippine Government, especially President Rodrigo Duterte, the following – to allow the civilians to return to their homes in areas in Marawi City that were already cleared by the military; stop the aerial bombings of Marawi City if only to salvage houses or buildings that may not have been destroyedabusesand checkpointspoliceof someyet; personneland stop militaryaccordtheat respect the to women. civilians, especially And ease the access to and from Marawi City, especially the roads through the village of Maliwanag so that people in the 1st District of Lanao del Sur would have better and

convenient road access; secure the remains of civilians so they may not be mixed with the garbage in the process of military clearing operations and so that they may be given proper burial even if only skeletons are left of them; to provide immediate appropriate material and financial support to all wounded civilian victims similar to the support being provided by the government to wounded military and police personnel; compensate for the damaged houses and buildings, wasted goods and merchandise of civilians and provide for their livelihood as well.

And to rebuild or rehabilitate the mosques and madrasahs and other destroyed structures that represented the Meranao culture and heritage; importantly, the government should not make any hint that it would occupy the land of the Meranaws on the basis of military reservation, instead it should help legitimate owners to have their respective land titles; and for the military and police personnel to avoid occupying mosques and madrasahs.

It also demanded from local politicians to account for all the relevant government funds such as the Calamity Fund and all other assistance and donations, and ensure transparent and equitable implementation or spending of the same. And has urged the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front to support its demands by ensuring that these reach all those concerned.

The Meranaw Victims Movement strongly denied that locals – whom the government and authorities blamed for allowing militants to build up forces and occupy the city – condone the violence and said it is willing to face off with IS fighters in an effort to drive out the gunmen. It also blamed local leaders as responsible for failing to prevent the IS attacks.

“First, we did not conform with the using of Marawi City as sanctuary neither did we approve of what some of our kinsfolk who claimed to be ISIS/ Maute Group did which ignited the war in Marawi City that has brought about grave sufferings to the Meranaw people. Second, we deem unacceptable the actions of the Government that caused the displacement of tens of thousands and deaths of several civilians due to the aerial bombings and use of heavy armaments in Marawi City which are among those prohibited under International Humanitarian Law.”

“Third, we hold our local leaders, past and present alike, responsible for failing to prevent the ISIS/MAUTE Group from carrying out their plan since they were fully aware of the group’s presence in the city prior to the siege, and for literally forsaking the civilians like orphans in the midst of great danger during the onset of the siege on May 23, 2017. Fourth, we are dismayed with the MILF since, until now, nothing was heard of them, let alone have they made a categorical position on the current Marawi crisis,” it said.

If all the demands are not met, the group said it will take actions not only against IS militants, but the Duterte government as well. “To our ISIS/MAUTE Group kinsfolk, if you would not heed our call, we would be compelled to face you because by then you no longer care for the welfare of the people and you did not only fail to realize but have violated the essence of Jihad in Islam. To the Government, this will be the last time that we will ask in relation to previous demands of various sectors of the Meranaw society, and that if the foregoing demands will fall to deaf ears, likewise, we will be compelled to fight for our rights that have been trampled upon and that Jihad becomes our legitimate recourse.”

“To our leaders, should we find out that you defraud or corrupt the assistance and support intended for the evacuees, we will unrelentingly pursue until we take them for the people in whatever means possible. To the MILF, take note that the demand for the approval of the BBL becomes irrelevant if the key area where it should be implemented would no longer be in the hands of the Meranaw, and that by then the support of the people of Lanao becomes weak in time that you need it,” it said at the same time appealing to fellow war victims to support them and stand united and fight for the rights of the “Bangsa Meranaw,” whose dignity was trampled upon because of this crisis.

“Dear fellow Meranaws, we are your sons and brethren, who are among the evacuees from Marawi City. Some of us have relatives among the civilians who perished and what is more hurting is that their remains have yet to be retrieved. It’s almost four months now that we have been seeking shelters in evacuation centers or among our relatives’ homes in different towns. Consequently, some passed away while many others fell sick, prompting us to unite… this movement is dedicated to help in fighting for the rights of the Bangsa Meranaw,” it said.

The group said for the longest time, the Meranaw or natives of Marawi, had not experienced this kind of most demeaning crisis, especially the utter destruction of the city which is a rendezvous for the four principalities and royalties of Lanao. “Indeed, let us accept this crisis as a tribulation for our sins and omissions. Let’s go back to Allah and seek atonement for our sins, and let us stop all our wrong or evil ways, small and big alike. It’s almost four months now that we have been waiting for any groups or individuals who would take the cudgels for our land and our people but it seems none is coming. Henceforth, even we are weak in terms of arms and less in number, we leave our fate in the power of Allah for He knows what’s in our hearts and that we are just following His commands.”

“We find it unacceptable to have a future history of Marawi City being lost by the Meranaw people of this generation, hence our conviction to stand for it and fight for the rights of the people now. Do not lose hope. For us, we will not stop until we are able to go back home to Marawi and be able to avail of our rights in full. The fate of this effort depends on you, especially those who truly care for our land and the people. Please help us with your prayers so that Allah will help us because no one has control over anything except Him and that all powers come from Him.”

It was not immediately known who the leaders of the group are, or whether some of them are Muslim members of the military and police. Neither authorities nor the government give any statement on the group’s demands.

Screenshot of a video showing armed members of the shadowy group called “Meranaw Victims Movement” who threaten to launch a holy war in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

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