Maguindanao to seek MILF help to secure Teduray communities

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MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — The provincial peace and order council has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help the military protect non-Muslim Tedurays in the province from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The council, chaired by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, convened in Buluan town Wednesday and discussed the plight of thousands of indigenous Tedurays dislodged from Mount Firis in Maguindanao by a series of deadly attacks by BIFF gunmen in the past three weeks.

Mount Firis, surrounded by Maguindanao’s Datu Hofer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns, is a centuries-old ancestral domain that the Tedurays hold sacred. The BIFF wants to establish a camp there to supposedly protect the area against land grabs.

“The trouble there is not about land ownership. There are no Christian outsiders grabbing lands there as alleged. All the people affected by the trouble are ethnic Tedurays, no one else,” Mangudadatu said after presiding over the emergency council meeting.

Mangudadatu said the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the MILF can cooperate in helping secure the Tedurays in the surroundings of Mount Firis based on the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities both sides crafted in July 1997.

“The ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF is an inclusive kind of peace initiative, one that will benefit Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities. There is reason for both sides to work together in protecting these Teduray communities from the BIFF,” Manggudadatu said.

The BIFF, which uses the black Islamic State flag, does not support the peace process. It espouses animosity to the government and persecution of non-Muslims.

Mangudadatu said the military and the MILF managed last year to drive from the province BIFF faction leader Abu Toraife through joint tactical efforts. The same mechanism can be initiated for the protection of residents of Mount Firis, he said.

The two other factions in the BIFF instigating hostilities in the area, the Bongos and Karialan groups, lost more than a dozen members in clashes with pursuing soldiers from between December 25 to January 6.

Two soldiers and a policeman were killed in a series of roadside bombings near Mount Firis while Army units and BIFF forces were locked in a three-week showdown in upland areas around the tribal enclave.

Mangudadatu said civilians are most vulnerable to roadside bombs and booby traps laid by BIFF gunmen along farm trails in the area.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana of the Army-led anti-terror Joint Task Force Central, said more ordnance experts will be deployed to collect IEDs scattered by the BIFF.

Mangudadatu said he will meet the chief of staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Al-Mansour Gambar, to discuss possible solutions to the security problems around the mountain.

Reference By John Unson (http://beta.philstar.com/nation/2018/01/11/1776761/maguindanao-seek-milf-help-secure-teduray-communities)