From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 5): BIFF denies links to al-Qaeda
The military’s announcement that it had recovered a flag similar to that used by the al-Qaeda international terrorist group during last week’s Maguindanao clashes was aimed at demonizing the group founded by renegade Moro rebel leader Ameril Umra Kato, the spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters said Wednesday.
Abu Misri Mama said this was also aimed at justifying further military actions in Maguindanao as painting the BIFF as an al-Qaeda ally or coddler of international terrorists would make it a terror organization.
“The reality is we are so local and we don’t have alliance with or support from al-Qaeda or any foreign groups,” Mama said, adding that the military’s claim that two al-Qaeda members had been monitored inside a BIFF camp in Maguindanao before it was seized by soldiers last week was also false.
According to the military among those reportedly monitored in the BIFF camp who might have actually helped fight soldiers was Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan, an alleged bomb expert from al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian arm – Jemaah Islamiyah – is on Washington’s list of top terrorists and has a $5-million price on his head for his alleged involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia that killed 110 foreign nationals.
“We don’t have foreigners in our organization. That’s a big lie,” Mama said.
A local government official in Maguindanao, who is knowledgeable about Islam, said that the use of Black flags dates from the time of the jihad that Prophet Muhammad launched against the so-called unbelievers.
It was known as rayat al-sawda’ (black banner). Several Muslim revolutionary groups, including the self-proclaimed Sunni-led Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, have used it although the modified version which features the shahada or the Muslim pledge to pray only to Allah and to recognize Muhammad as his prophet is also used by peaceful organizations.
“It is not exclusive to terrorists,” the local official, who did not want to be identified, said.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said what he has heard of the BIFF was that it has been coddling suspects in the Maguindanao massacre.
At least 58 people – mostly media workers – were killed in the Nov. 2009 incident perpetrated by some members of the Ampatuan clan and their private militias.
The BLMI activities began at Barangay Kurintem, DOS, Maguindanao on January 15, 2014 attended by local folks and community leaders who have shown the eagerness to learn the progress of the current GPH- MILF peace process, the proposed Bangsamoro Region and the Basic Law being crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
In January 19, another advocacy was also held at Parang, Maguindanao. The BLMI Unit Officers who were at the same the resource speakers stressed the importance of the Framework Agreement and its annexes emphasizing further to their audience that the dividend of peace is inclusive to all residents of the future Bangsamoro region.
On January 25, BLMI personnel held another advocacy engagement at Pagalungan, North Cotabato with the resource speakers focused mainly on the proposed ministerial form of government, political party formation and updates on the peace process.
Another consultation was also undertaken at Kabacan also in North Cotabato on January 26, this time attended by about 1,745 participants as shown in the organizer’s registration sheet. They were composed of professionals, laymen, farmers, traders, women and youth who spent their precious time in listening to the issues presented and elaborated on by the speakers.
On January 27, 2014, the BLMI Extension Service Unit headed by Ustadz Abdulsalam Alabat, a Shari’ah Law expert conducted consultation in Sharif Aguak, Maguindanao and informed local residents the recent progress in the peace process particularly the signing by both panels of the Annex on Normalization and addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and joint cooperation.
Another consultation was also held at Datu Paglas, Maguindanao on January 28 with the same issues on the peace process discussed to the participants.
On January 29, 2014, two advocacy programs were held at Isulan Sultan Kudarat Province and another one at the GJ compound, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The speakers delved on issues on political party formation, peace process updates and ministerial form of government.
This writer who is the BLMI Research Unit officer is currently conducting research work on Moro professionals to come-up with a comprehensive registry of Bangsamoro professionals as ready reference in the future.
The BLMI advocacy or consultation programs were made possible through strong partnership with community leaders who served as program organizers as well. Coordination with LGU’s, AFP and PNP were also made resulting to the success of the consultation activities that are supported and funded by the Asia Foundation (TAF-Aus-Aid) and Reconciliation Resources (CR-EU).
More BLMI consultation programs are slated to be undertaken in Zamboanga peninsula & island provinces of Western Mindanao.
BLMI will explore the whole Moroland as part of its undying aspiration in installing a shining light of new beginning for the Bangsamoro.