MILF: We didn’t coddle Marwan, Usman

Rappler.com
MILF: We didn’t coddle Marwan, Usman
Malaysian terrorist Marwan was in the company of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the MILF says

MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday, January 31, denied coddling wanted terrorists Abdulbasit Usman and Zulkipli Bin Hir, better known as “Marwan.”

Days after the deadly clash between rebels and elite cops in  Mamasapano, Maguindanao, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that Marwan, an alleged bomb maker, was in the company of the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), not the MILF. 

“The truth will show that we have not been coddling Marwan,” Iqbal said in joint press conference with government negotiators. 

Iqbal reiterated earlier statements saying that a personality such as Marwan is known to transfer from one place to another and does not stay in one location. 

On calls for the MILF to prove their commitment to the peace process by turning over Usman, Iqbal said, “I do not want to sound philosophical but you cannot turn over something that is not in your possession.”

The site of the encounter that killed at least 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF), 17 MILF members, and 7 civilians is a known bailiwick of the MILF. The government said Marwan was killed in the operation but Usman was able to escape. 

Members of both the MILF and BIFF reside in the area. Not only are some of these members related to each other, some of them also allegedly identify as both MILF and BIFF members. (Mamasapano: Sleepy town roused by SAF-MILF clash)

Iqbal refused to react to such reports. 

Asked how the MILF regards the BIFF in relation to the peace process, Iqbal said: “The BIFF is not a part of the MILF. It is a distinct and separate organization. They do not believe in the way of peace. That’s it,” Iqbal said. 

The MILF has maintained it acted in self-defense during the encounter and blamed the PNP SAF team for failing to coordinate with them as provided in its ceasefire agreement with the government. (Inside story: SAF kept military out of the loop)

Both the government and the MILF have called the incident a “misencounter” but the disparity in the number of casualties from both sides has triggered criticisms of a possible overkill on the side of the MILF.

Mechanisms in place 

President Benigno Aquino III has challenged the MILF to take more concrete action to help give justice to those who died in the encounter.

Should the MILF find Usman in their territory, would the MILF arrest him and turn him over to authorities?

Von Al Haq, spokesperson of MILF’s armed wing, said there are mechanisms in place designed to respond to such situations under the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG). 

The AHJAG is designed to “isolate” criminal elements found to be within MILF territories, Al Haq said. 

It provides that the MILF can inform the government of terrorists in the area but it is the role of the police and the military to go after them, Al Haq added.

Iqbal said the government and the MILF are working on “upgrading” the mandate of the AHJAG following the Mamasapano encounter. 

Iqbal maintained that the Mamasapano clash was a “pure and simple misencounter.”

The MILF is conducting its own probe into the Maguindanao clash, aside from parallel investigations of the government and the International Monitoring Team overseeing both sides’ ceasefire agreement.

Amid public outcry over the clash, both the government and the MILF are pushing through with the peace process. 

The terms of the decommissioning of rebel firearms were signed in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, January 29. 

The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in March 2014 after 17 years of negotiations that aim to end 4 decades of armed conflict in the Southern Philippines.  Rappler.com

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