COTABATO CITY – The Philippine Army said 10 pro-ISIS fighters, including a former and notorious Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF commander, surrendered in the restive southern province of Maguindanao, and handed over assorted weapons.
Major General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said the militants were all members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF led by Gani Saligan. He said Saligan’s group surrendered a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle, one Ultimax machine gun, one M14 rifle and .45-caliber pistol, including ammunition.
“The surrender of the rebels is a breakthrough in countering violent extremism considering that there are still members of the outlawed group who desired to return to the fold of law,” Sobejana said.
Saligan was a notorious commander of the MILF who broke away from the rebel group and joined the BIFF where he led militants in numerous assaults and attacks on government troops, and spate of bombings that targeted civilians in Mindanao.
It was unclear whether the military or police would pursue criminal charges against Saligan and his group, but Sobejana encouraged other BIFF members and other rebel groups to surrender peacefully in exchange for government aid, including livelihood assistance.
“We encourage other members of the BIFF as this is a good opportunity for them to live a better life and eye-opener that the soldiers will not hurt them, but instead, we will provide a necessary assistance and care to include health services. We will help the surrenderors go back to their normal lives by assisting them in getting livelihood opportunities through the local government. Each individual initially received ten thousand pesos as assistance from the provincial government of Maguindanao,” Sobejana said.
He also assured the safety of those who will surrender peacefully. “We will also ensure their safety and security as these people won’t be lured to join the rebel group again,” Sobejana said.
The BIFF, whose leaders pledged allegiance to ISIS, is fighting for a caliphate in southern Philippines where security forces mounted a massive offensive in an effort to destroy the jihadist group. (Mindanao Examiner)
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