Sunday, June 18, 2023

7 men killed in Datu Paglas operation were MILF members – Iqbal

 From MindaNews (Jun 19, 2023): 7 men killed in Datu Paglas operation were MILF members – Iqbal (By BONG S. SARMIENTO)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants in a military formation at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao. MILF fighters will be decommissioned in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace deal between the government and the MILF signed in 2014. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 19 June) – A senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) confirmed Monday that the seven men killed in a law enforcement operation before Sunday dawn in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao del Sur were MILF members.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Peace Implementing Panel chair, said on Messenger those killed were legitimate MILF members, refuting the claims of the military that those slain were members of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

He noted the MILF is preparing to file a complaint against the operating team for allegedly breaching the ceasefire agreement and the terms of reference of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

AHJAG is a cooperative mechanism in the Bangsamoro peace process between the government and the MILF that responds to criminality and terrorism in areas with MILF presence.

“(There’) no coordination (for the law enforcement operation),” said Iqbal, also the Minister of Education in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In a video interview with BrigadaNews Cotabato, Mirinda Madidis Husain said her sons, Nasser Yussef Husain and Nurjihad Husain, both killed in the joint law enforcement operation, were subordinates of George Kasim, commander of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces National Guard Division.

““The two were legitimate members of the MILF under Sir George Kasim … There’s no BIFF members here,” she said in Filipino.

MILF spokesperson Von Alhaq confirmed in a phone interview that Kasim is a top MILF commander and that “most of those killed were known to the MILF.”

Unlike Iqbal, Alhaq, however, did not confirm nor deny if those killed were MILF members, saying that “an internal investigation is still being conducted by the front.”

On Monday, the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said the seven persons killed in Barangay Damawato, Datu Paglas were members of the BIFF – Karialan Faction.

The joint operation was conducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of Joint Task Force Central, said the operating troops conducted the operation against Nasser Yussef Husain, alias Tutin Usop, and Nurjihad Husain, alias Datdat Usop.

He said the troops were serving search warrants on the suspects for alleged violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

“When they were approaching the subjects’ residence, an undetermined number of BIFF members fired upon the government forces, wounding one police personnel,” he said.

The troops fired back, which resulted in the deaths of the seven BIFF members, including the two subjects of the search warrants, he added.

Rillera said that government forces seized six firearms – one Uzi, two M16 rifles, and three caliber .45 pistols and assorted ammunition – during the operation.

Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, WestMinCom commander, commended the troops of Joint Task Force Central for their “significant accomplishment.”

“Our troops will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies to quell terrorism and other criminalities. Our collaborative efforts ensure that terrorism and lawlessness have no place in our area of operation,” Galido said.

On Sunday, Brig. General Allan Nobleza, director of the Police Regional Office in the BARMM, said the two main targets, the Husain brothers, were also allegedly involved in criminal activities, including the bombing of a power line of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines and the 2021 attack and occupation of the Datu Paglas public market. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

7 alleged BIFF members killed, police hurt in Maguindanao del Sur clash

 From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 19, 2023): 7 alleged BIFF members killed, police hurt in Maguindanao del Sur clash (By: John Eric Mendoza - Reporter)

MANILA, Philippines — Seven alleged elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed while a policeman was injured in a clash in Maguindanao del Sur, Philippine Army’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) reported on Monday.

The joint military and police operation was supposed to enforce a search warrant against alleged BIFF-Karialan faction members Nasser Yussef Hussain, a.k.a. Tutin Usop, and Nurjihad Husain, a.k.a. Datdat Usop in Barangay Damawato, Datu Paglas when they were shot by armed men.

“When they were approaching the subject’s residence, an undetermined number of BIFF members fired upon the government forces, which resulted in the wounding of one police personnel,” Wesmincom said.

“Troops fired back, which also resulted in the deaths of the seven BIFF members, including the two subjects of the search warrants,” it added.

Wesmincom withheld the names of the five other fatalities.

Authorities seized six high-powered firearms and assorted ammunition, including one Uzi, two M16 rifles, and three caliber 45 pistols.

Meanwhile, the wounded cop was brought to a hospital in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.

Sabah sea curfew extended till July 4

Posted to The Star (Jun 19, 2023): Sabah sea curfew extended till July 4

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s east coast dusk to dawn maritime curfew, which has been in place for seven years, has been extended for another two weeks till July 4.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Jauteh Dikun said residents in the area will be required to stay at home from 6pm to 6am, while outsiders are not allowed to enter curfew zones.

He said the curfew areas were up to three nautical miles off the coast of east coast districts of Sandakan, Beluran, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau.

The curfew was first implemented on July 16, 2014.

Comm Jauteh said the extension was needed due to threats from cross-border criminals, including from Abu Sayyaf linked kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) groups.

“The curfew is required to ensure terrorists or criminals from the southern Philippines do not slip into Sabah waters.

“This is for the safety of international researchers and foreign tourists visiting islands in Sabah as well as local communities in the area,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He said intelligence reports indicate KFR groups as well as the Abu Sayyaf group were still attempting to enter the country’s waters and carry out kidnappings and other cross-border crimes.

“The curfew will also allow security forces to look after the safety of Sabahans and others who travel at sea and those living on land in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone),” he said.

Comm Jauteh said the curfew will also to monitor movement of vessels.

“It helps create a sense of security among chalet operators and fishermen with the presence of security vessels,” he added.

Respective district police chiefs have been given the authority to issue permits to any applicant who fulfils the necessary requirements to conduct fishing activities or to ply the curfew areas.

Opinion: The Future of Maranao Children

Posted to Vigour Times (Jun 18, 2023): The Future of Maranao Children (By Mat Hutchison)

During my recent trip to Lanao del Sur to assess the progress made in the rehabilitation of Marawi, which was devastated by a five-month-long war with the Maute armed group, I had the opportunity to visit some of the villages surrounding Lake Lanao. 

What I observed and heard during these visits convinced me that unless we decisively address the underlying conditions that contribute to economic stagnation and despair in these communities, we will continue to see the emergence of armed groups with various ideological and political beliefs. 

The Maranao families in this region are larger than anywhere else in the country, while opportunities for livelihood are limited. As a result, young people drop out of school in order to support their families financially. 

Even when they have a strong desire to complete their education, the girls in these communities tend to marry at a young age. The presence of a large number of children is noticeable everywhere. When the local health workers run out of contraception, family planning programs come to a halt. 

In one coastal barangay along the northeastern side of the lake, I spoke to a local religious leader, who is around 50 years old, and he informed me that he has 14 children from three different wives. Although some of the men found this amusing, the women present showed no reaction. The sight of approximately 20 children surrounding us during our discussion about their families served as a stark reminder that if these kids do not receive a proper education and are not given the chance to obtain decent jobs in their community or abroad, they will be vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups. 

Joining such groups becomes an attractive option for these children when they have limited opportunities and prospects. 

While groups like Daulah Islamiyah-Maute and Abu Sayyaf may portray themselves as ideological, many individuals who join them see it primarily as a means of making a living. 

Despite this situation, it is important to note that Lanao del Sur is not the poorest or most depressed province in the region. 

The Maranao people have a reputation for being entrepreneurial and take great pride in the education and professional achievements of their children. 

Before the Marawi Siege in 2017, no one could have predicted that a forward-thinking community like Lanao del Sur would become a breeding ground for a terrorist group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. However, the signs were present in the demographic data. 

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which includes Lanao del Sur, has consistently been the fastest-growing region in terms of population in the country. 

In BARMM, Lanao del Sur has the highest average household size at 6.5. Girls outnumber boys in schools, and women graduates far outnumber men in both high school and college. 

The total fertility rate (TFR), which is an estimate of the average number of children born to each woman aged 15 to 49, has historically been high in the Philippines compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. However, over the years, the TFR has gradually declined. 

Despite this national trend, the rural areas of the Philippines, including BARMM, still have higher fertility rates. 

In 2017, BARMM had a TFR of 3.1 compared to the overall national rate of 2.7. These rates are likely to decrease as more Muslim women have access to education and delay marriage. 

This presents a challenge for Muslim Mindanao, as well as the rest of the country, in ensuring that education reaches even the most remote areas, particularly for women. 

I believe this transformation is already taking place in Mindanao. Just a short distance from the ruins of Marawi lies the beautiful main campus of the Mindanao State University (MSU), which remains unaffected by the siege and continues to be a hub for intellectual growth and the aspirations of young people. 

During my visit, I had the opportunity to interact with 15 social work students at the College of Public Affairs, most of whom were women. They had just completed their internships with the Community and Family Services International, the organization I was affiliated with. As they shared their field experiences, I caught a glimpse of the future these students dreamed of for Maranao children.