MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military said it seized a black flag in a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) camp captured in Maguindanao in a week-long offensive.
The flag is similar to Al Qaeda’s black flag that has appeared in violent Muslim protests around the world. A similar flag was seized in 2012 from an Abu Sayyaf camp in Zamboanga City.
Wrote Rappler CEO Maria Ressa in a September 2013 piece: “The black flag taps into a secret motivation of al-Qaeda: a ‘narrative that convinces them that they’re part of a divine plan,’ according to former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Ali Soufan in his book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.“
Al-Qaeda believes its black banners herald the apocalypse that will bring about the triumph of Islam. (Read more about the black flag here.)
The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which had previous links to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The MILF said it had severed ties with the terrorist network. (READ: MILF and terrorism: Hypocrisy, lies, truth)
BIFF’s founding leader Ameril Umra Kato has constantly dismissed the peace process entered into by the MILF with the Aquino government. His group has renewed calls for independence.
President Benigno Aquino III, the military and the MILF have since tagged the BIFF as a “spoiler” to the imminent signing of a comprehensive peace agreement between both sides. (READ: Aquino vows to crush ‘spoilers’)
Just a few hours after the peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur ended successfully on January 25, the military attacked known BIFF strongholds in Maguindanao. The clashes have lasted almost a week and killed at least 51 rebels and one soldier, according to the military.
The renewed conflict has displaced 10,000 residents.
Justifying the offensive, the military said it was assisting the police in serving the warrants of arrest against BIFF members responsible for previous violent attacks in Mindanao.
The Army’s 601st Brigade under Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan said it had captured 3 BIFF camps at the Reina Regente Complex in Maguindanao after 6 days of military offensive. The camps include a headquarters, a bomb-making facility, and a training facility.
They also seized seized war materiel and subversive documents. (Below are photos courtesty of the 601st Brigade.)
The military offensive is scheduled to end on Saturday, February 1, but the military could ask for another extension depending on developments. – Rappler.com