Mindanao Muslim nationalists to work with the authorities to curb violence
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has offered to help the police in Cotabato province following a recent spate of violent attacks. According to the group, it could exert some influence over feuding clans., The Philippine National Police imposed a gun ban on 18 February.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which formerly sought to set up an independent Muslim state in Mindanao, has offered to work with police in Cotabato, a province on Mindanao Island, to curb violence in the Municipality of Pikit, scene of a string of gun attacks.
Since the start of the month, local authorities have seen a wave of attacks that left residents dismayed and shocked, to the point that some are considering leaving the city.
On Valentine's Day, a 13-year-old boy died in a shooting while two other students were injured; A security guard was killed the day before, while on 16 February, armed men killed a 15-year-old girl and wounded a 42-year-old farmer.
On 18 February, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong was also wounded in an ambush in which four of his escorts were killed. Immediately after, the government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) agreed to the MILF’s offer.
On the same day, the Philippine National Police imposed a gun ban on three provinces (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur), plus 63 villages in Cotabato that are special geographical areas under the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
The Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), which welcomed the ban, coordinates the joint work of the Philippines' Armed Forces and Moro independence groups (like MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces or BIAF).
AHJAG’s chairman Anwar Alamada (MILF) said that a collective approach involving all stakeholders is needed to stop the violence, which began as a "rido", a feud between clans.
“The MILF is committed to taking part in this collective action,” Alamada said. “We pity the innocent civilians who have been dragged into the mess.”
According to Alamada, many of the feuding families have relatives who are members of the MILF, and the group can help mediate a settlement.
A Muslim majority area, the BARMM was established in 2019 following years of peace talks between the Philippine government and pro-independence Muslim groups such as the MILF and its armed wing, the BIAF.
Since the late 1960s, Muslim groups have fought to set up an Islamic state on Mindanao resorting to terrorist attacks thanks to the support of foreign states like Gaddafi’s Libya.
After decades of fighting against the Philippine military, the MILF watered down its demands calling for greater regional autonomy from the central government, which resulted in the 2018 Bangsamoro Organic Law. In exchange, it agreed to disarm its 30,000 fighters.