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BIFF members surrender
« on: September 14, 2019, 07:39:03 AM »
By John Unson

Former BIFF members begin journey back to mainstream society
John Unson (Philstar.com) - September 13, 2019

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Fourteen former members of an Islamic State-inspired group have taken the first steps to reintegrating into mainstream society with the help of the military and the Bangsamoro government.

Alimudin Malang of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and his 13 followers turned over their firearms on Thursday to Army Major Gen. Diosdado Carreon and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The 14 also renounced their membership in the BIFF and promised to reform for good.

Carreon is commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which operates in the adjoining North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces where there are BIFF forces.

The symbolic event was held late Thursday at Camp Siongco, command center of 6th ID, in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.

The 14 former BIFF members each received initial aid and financial assistance from BARMM's Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence, or READI contingent, under Sinarimbo’s office.

Carreon said the group of Malang agreed to return to the fold of law through the intercession of officials of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion and the 601st Infantry Brigade, both under 6th ID.

Malang said he and his followers yielded when they realized it is better to support Malacañang’s peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose leader, Al-Haj Ahod Ebrahim, is now appointed chief minister of BARMM.

Malang told reporters Thursday while at Camp Siongco that he is thankful to officials of the 33rd IB for helping enlighten them on the benefits of bolting from the BIFF for the sake of their families.

The BIFF, blamed for all deadly bombings in central Mindanao in the past six years, was established in 2010 by the radical cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, who started as commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

Kato was booted from the MILF in 2009 for abuses and, subsequently, organized the Jihadist BIFF, at first comprised of small bands of gunmen led by commanders wanted for criminal offenses.

Carreon said a senior BIFF commander, Samad Simpal, and his followers returned to the MILF early on through the efforts of local officials in the second district of Maguindanao.

Sinarimbo said the BARMM can embark on regional programs that can help hasten the rehabilitation of former BIFF members wishing to return to the fold of law.

“The government doesn’t have a program yet for them like the one being implemented for former members of the New People’s Army but we can initiate certain measures that can help reforming members of either the BIFF, or the Maute, or the Abu Sayyaf,” Sinarimbo said.

More than 40 BIFF members have surrendered to the 6th ID in batches since 2017, many of them now engaged in farming in their hometowns in Maguindanao and fishing in safe areas in central Mindanao’s 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta.

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