Moro Renegades Still A Big Problem In South RP

October 29, 2007 at 10:03 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Moro rebels show their might in Al-Barka town in Basilan island in southern Philippines. (Mark Navales/Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2007) – Rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have become a major headache for the armed revolutionary group which is currently stepping up efforts to arrive at a peaceful solution to the centuries-old Moro problem in southern Philippines.

Major Benjamin Dolorfino, in a recent interview here, said renegade guerrillas have resorted to banditry, kidnapping, and extortion, criminal acts which are condemned by the fundamentalist MILF.

“Their devolution into banditry, kidnapping and extortion – all of which often end in murder – is not only and embarrassment to MILF but also undermines everythingit is attempting to achieve,” Dolorfino said citing the seriousness of the MILF peace panel to end the conflict in Mindanao.

“That is why the MILF is not merely helping the government tracks down these deserters, but in some cases is actually leading the effort to suppress them,” he said.

Dolofino said the MILF also joined government troops in searching for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi taken from his parish by Moro renegades on Mindanao in June. “They were leading the search,” he said.

The MILF is not the only Moro group to be plagued and embarrassed by former members who have turned to crime but also some lost commands of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well, which signed a peace agreement with the government after 30 years of fighting.

Unfortunately, not all of the MNLF unit commanders are ready to give up their arms, including Datukan Samad whom the MNLF refers to as the “lost command.”

In May, Samad and nine of his men kidnapped German treasure hunter named Thomas Wallraf, his wife and a Filipino couple they were entertaining, in Pikit town in North Cotabato province.

Even before police could intervene, the MNLF asked rival MILF chief Murad Ebrahim to send his men after Samad who was operating near the MILF territory around Pikit.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the MILF fighters tracked and surrounded Samad near Pagalungan and asked him to surrender his hostage who refused at first but changed mind after MILF fired a rocket-propelled grenade near his position.

Norodin Matalam, vice mayor of Pagalungan town, praised the Moro groups for what he called their “spontaneous involvement” in recovering the hostages.

Samad’s Lost Command is but one of many such groups of former guerillas and terrorists that have left their parent organizations to turn independent contractors; they no longer fight for a cause –if they ever did – but for profit and to survive; some, like the notorious “Commander Kiddie,” who have turned to be professional kidnapper.

Commander Kiddie, or Abusalam Akiddin, as he is known when he led a Moro guerilla column, has a reputation for taking hostages and holding them for ransom. That reputation is so pronounced that even the Moro leadership believed it was he who had abducted Father Bossi, although the MILF leadership “pointed the finger” at Commander Kiddie, as Agence France-Presse noted, he had since denied playing any role in this particular incident

Major General Nehemas Pajarito, who as commander of forces in the area is well acquainted with the rogue commander, believed Akiddin did not hold the priest saying that authorities are “still investigating his possible involvement” in the kidnapping.

Commander Abubakar leads another Lost Command, lamented an MILF spokesman; Abubakar’s group is believed to be behind the bus and bus terminal bombings in May and June.

Major Randolph Cabangbang of the Eastern Mindanao Command told reporters that Abubakar’s lost command has sought to extort money from the Weena bus company, a family-owned business that operates at least 200 buses.

Abelerdo Gamilla, the company’s operation manager in Davao City, says the group has carried out 17 attacks on his company since 2002; at least nine people have been killed ang 48 others injured in three such bombings since May.

In each case, said Major Cabangbang, “extortion was the reason behind the attacks.” (Candido Aparece Jr.)

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