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14 Muslim separatists surrender to Philippine govt

Surrender follows those of more than 50 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters since year began
14 Muslim separatists surrender to Philippine govt

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (center) inspects decommissioned weapons belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province, in Mindanao on Sept. 7, 2019.  (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 15, 2022 08:56 AM GMT
Updated: February 15, 2022 10:58 AM GMT

Fourteen members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) separatist group swore allegiance to the Philippine government on Feb. 14  after having handed themselves in to authorities in Mindanao following a series of such surrenders this year.

The formal surrender was attended by senior military officials at a military camp in Midsayap, Cotabato province.

“They expressed their desire to live peaceful lives. So, as a sign of their allegiance to the Philippine flag, they surrendered their AK-47 assault rifles and B40 anti-tank rockets,” army spokesman Major General Juvymax Uy said on Feb. 15.

He said the rebels had surrendered a few days earlier in Maguindanao province.

The group included three children who claimed they had been indoctrinated into fighting for an independent Mindanao state.

“They were aged 14 to 17 years. They know how to handle firearms because they underwent special training,” Uy added.

BIFF fighters, however, together with the Abu Sayyaf group, remained adamant that they would only accept an independent Muslim state governed by strict Muslim laws

The children will be placed under the care of the Social Welfare Department and will not face prosecution.

The BIFF is a separatist organization that has continued a long-running insurgency in the southern Philippines to achieve an independent Muslim state.

The group broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which struck a 2012 peace deal with the government under late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino in return for greater autonomy in the region.

BIFF fighters, however, together with the Abu Sayyaf group, remained adamant that they would only accept an independent Muslim state governed by strict Muslim laws.

Abu Sayaff has been responsible for a series of kidnappings and beheadings over the years, including those of two Canadian tourists in 2015.

It has also targeted Catholic priests. In 2007, the group kidnapped Father Giancarlo Bossi in Zamboanga del Sur province in Mindanao. He was later released following reports of a ransom being paid. Irish priest Father Michael Sinnott was abducted in the same province in 2009 and released a few months later.

The surrender of the BIFF fighters follows that of a group of 23 fighters who surrendered in Mindanao on Jan. 22 and up to 30 others earlier in the month.

“This is the result of … [a] continuous campaign against terrorist groups to protect our communities from their atrocities and to achieve long and lasting peace in this part of the country,” Uy said in a statement after the surrender.

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