Maranaos to authorities: Go slow on Lanao terror tag-A A +A
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
ILIGAN CITY -- Maranao leaders have asked the authorities to go slow on implying that the province of Lanao del Sur hosts terrorists involved in the series of bombings that rocked Mindanao the past few weeks.
Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong challenged police and military officials to come out with proof to back their claims instead of just issuing conjectures based only on initial and non-conclusive information.
“We will not tolerate any group that will sabotage the peace process,” Adiong stressed, referring to the ongoing negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end the four decades of rebellion in Mindanao.
The government and the MILF is in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday to resume talks and iron out power-sharing annexes.
The peace negotiations have so far produced consensus on building a future Bangsamoro self-governance entity with far greater economic and political powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao of which Lanao del Sur.
Adiong said that after decades of strife, they are looking forward to seeing the return to normalcy in Maranao communities as a result of an upcoming political settlement of the Moro conflict.
This recent terrorism tagging, if not checked, will potentially dampen that emerging atmosphere, he added.
No KIM in Lanao del Sur
Adiong refuted reports that there is a presence of a jihadist group, supposedly named Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM), in the province.
He said that during a meeting with local government leaders last week, officials of Kapai town disputed reports that the principal suspect in the July 26 Cagayan de Oro bombing, Usman Hapids, is from the place.
Hapids’ supposed place of birth and his alleged association with suspected Abu Sayyaf bandit Reneer Lou Dongon led to suggestions that Lanao del Sur could be hosting terrorists that could have a hand in the deadly bomb attacks in Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato cities.
Dongon was arrested, along with a certain Termije Akmad, in Marawi City, May 11 this year for kidnapping. When nabbed, Dongon was in possession of a firearm and bomb-making materials.
From being an Abu Sayyaf member then, police and military authorities now characterized Dongon as the ring leader of the nascent terror group KIM to which they blamed the Cagayan de Oro blast.
The KIM, according to authorities, groups together the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters of former MILF base commander Ameril Umra Kato, the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and Al-Qaeda.
This is different from their earlier characterization of being “Al-Qaeda inspired.”
Pretext to US 'presence’
Civil society leaders in Lanao del Sur feared that the effort to drag the province in renewed terror threats to Mindanao is geared at government’s goal of availing new military assistance from the United States which is seeking increased rotational presence for its forces in the country.
“Please do not use this as pretext for bringing in US troops to Mindanao again,” youth leader Drieza Lininding told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone.
In 2005, the MILF cooperated with the US government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to verify the identities of some 53 suspected terrorists roaming around the Sulu archipelago, some parts of Zamboanga Peninsula and Central Mindanao.
Of these, 32 were JI members while 21 were Abu Sayyaf. The JI members were Indonesian except for one Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan or Abdul Musa who is Malaysian. The list of JI members subjected to verification included Dulmatin and Umar Patek.
Marwan is believed to be lurking in Central Mindanao up to now.
Earlier, MILF military spokesperson Von Al-Haq claimed that Marwan is being coddled by the BIFF.
A June 2005 US embassy cable about the mattter, which was made public by WikiLeaks, quoted an MILF official as saying the Abu Sayyaf and Pentagon Gang suspects in the list “can be arrested easily” except for the JI personalities who are “difficult to locate because they operate in isolated areas and are suspicious of outsiders.”
The US embassy cable said the terrorists, at that time, “are considered mobile in Central Mindanao.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 20, 2013.