BIFF: We will seize more gov't firearms
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has rejected calls to return the firearms they had seized from Special Action Force (SAF) commandos killed in a clash with rebel forces in Mamasapano town.
The splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through spokesman Abu Misry Mama, also threatened to capture more weapons from government troops in future encounters.
"We have no plans of returning the firearms. Why would we? In fact, we will seize more firearms and ammunitions from government forces in future operations," said Mama.
He made the statement as the MILF yielded to the government demand to return the firearms and "retrievable personal effects" of SAF troopers seized by its fighters in the January 25 clash where 44 elite cops were killed. (READ: MILF: We will return SAF firearms, personal items)
Mama asserted that the SAF weapons were "seized it in a legitimate encounter" and that in the context of an armed conflict, it is normal practice to "clean up" after the opposing force.
Mama said that the BIFF's 1st Brigade recovered at least 10 weapons from the SAF – a baby Armalite, 4 M16s, one Bushmaster, two baby Armalites with M203 grenade launchers, one M16 with M203 grenade launcher and a 90mm recoilless rifle during the 11-hour firefight.
'Why blame us?'
Mama said the BIFF is undeterred by the threats made by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and several senators at the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano clash, that charges will be filed against the group over the firefight.
"The SAF intruded our area and attacked us. Why blame us for it? They failed in the operation so it is their fault," Mama said.
He also shrugged off the accusation of Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano that the MILF and the BIFF should bear the burden of the bloody incident for allegedly providing refuge to Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as "Marwan," one of two targets of the SAF operation.
"They cannot say that Marwan is really inside the MILF territory the same way that they cannot say that he is inside our territory," Mama said.
He added: "Mamasapano is a huge town with several barangays. There are MILF, BIFF, soldiers, local government, and even cops in Mamasapano. These groups co-exist in this area. Now how can they say who is protecting who?"
'Focus on getting Usman'
Mama said that the government should concentrate on nabbing Usman, instead of pointing fingers at the rebel groups.
Sources said Usman was allegedly in the same area when Marwan was killed and tried to fight back to repel the SAF commandos.
"If the government knows where Usman is, then they should get him immediately. Instead of doing that, they point their fingers against other groups like the BIFF," Mama said.
Mama claimed that they had never provided shelter to Usman in their camps after they broke away from the MILF. The BIFF does not favor a peace agreement with the government.
"There are many Usmans in Maguindanao but no one is named Basit. I have a cousin who is Usman but he is not a bomber," Mama said.
President Benigno Aquino III had asked the MILF to "surrender" Usman if he is in their territory.
In his first national address on the Mamasapano clash on January 28, the President demanded two concrete actions from the MILF to manifest its sincerity in the peace process – the return of the SAF weapons, and not to get in the way of government operations against Usman in MILF territory.
The MILF had insisted that it does not coddle terrorists. (READ: MILF: We didn't coddle Marwan, Usman) – Rappler.com