Philippines: BIFF Gets Banged Around

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August 22, 2012: In the south MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) has distanced itself from a splinter group (BIFF, for Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). BIFF contains former members of MILF, something MILF leaders have played down for the past two years. But now MILF openly agrees with government demands to destroy these "outlaws". BIFF contains about a thousand armed men and MILF had sought to negotiate a peace deal with the dissidents while publicly insisting that it would crush this two year old group. But BIFF has become increasingly violent and outspoken about how MILF is selling out Moslems. A contributing factor to this policy change is the health problems the BIFF leader (Ameril Umbra Kato) is having. He was secretly treated in a southern hospital recently, with the assistance of a local politician. This revelation put an unwelcome spotlight on the fact that many southern Moslem politicians have close relationships with MILF and even BIFF.

August 15, 2012: A week of fighting in the south, between soldiers and BIFF, has led to 40,000 people fleeing their homes. This latest outbreak of violence, started by BIFF by attacking soldiers, has alarmed MILF, which is still trying to negotiate a peace deal with the government.

In the south (Basilan) a clash with Abu Sayyaf left two soldiers and two terrorists dead.

August 14, 2012: In the south (Maguindanao province) soldiers captured a BIFF camp. At least 15 BIFF members were killed during the operation. This comes after ten days of army sweeps through rural areas known to be used by BIFF.

August 11, 2012: In the south (Maguindanao province) BIFF gunmen attacked a police checkpoint and killed a policeman before fleeing.

August 10, 2012:  On the southern island of Sulu an Indian man being held for ransom escaped his Abu Sayyaf captors and made contact with local police. The Indian was married to a Sulu woman and was kidnapped 14 months ago while visiting his in-laws. Abu Sayyaf was demanding more ransom than the man's family could afford, which caused negotiations to drag on. Police have warned foreigners to stay away from Sulu and Basilan, two islands were Abu Sayyaf are numerous, because the Islamic terror group's main source of income these days is extortion and kidnapping.

August 8, 2012: In the south (Marawi City) several attacks on security forces left three soldiers and a civilian bystander dead. The attackers were believed to be from criminal gangs who are angry at police efforts to shut down their illegal (but very profitable) logging operations. The illegal logging has been going on for years and complaints from local people finally spurred the government to bypass the bribed local officials and shut the logging down.

 

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