Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacks
What is Happening
On May 8, 200 members from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked a public market in Datu, Paglas, Maguindanao. The clash between armed government forces and the BIFF members caused hundreds of residents to evacuate. The two groups fired shots at each other, although, there were no injured people. The government deployed military and police units into the area to combat the situation. It is unclear why BIFF attacked the market. A military spokesperson said it was because they wanted food and seized the market after fearing retaliation when people reported their presence. Another attack happened the same month on May 13 when a militant group clashed, killing four BIFF gunmen. Since the attack, BIFF has also suffered two arrests. President Rodrigo Duterte ordered BIFF to stop oppressing the civilians or else strong military retaliation would ensue. BIFF continues to cause damage with attacks, arson, ambushes, and bombings.
What is BIFF?
BIFF was formed in December 2010. The group is sometimes known as Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM). They are an Islamic separatist organization based in the southern Philippines. Their goal is to have an independent state for Filipino Muslim minorities, known as the Moro people, who mostly live in Mindanao. Ameril Umbra Kato founded the group as a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an organization in the Philippines that wants the right for Filipino Americans to self-govern. Kato, however, supported an extreme form of Islam. The group’s leader wanted an independent state for Filipino Muslims, even when MILF found autonomy more amenable. BIFF’s goal with attacks on government forces and civilians is to undermine talks of peace between MILF and the Philippines’ government.
Who’s Affected and What’s Being Done?
BIFF attacks affect civilians including the poor, children, and elderly who all live in Maguindanao. President Rodrigo Duterte says that aside from military and police help, he needs help from other government agencies and holders. This would help to prevent the recruitment of BIFF recruitment, which has seen an increase over the pandemic because of the vulnerable position the residents are in. The president also asked the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to refuse BIFF from taking refuge in their communities to prevent an all-out offense against BIFF.
Research Coordinator - Jezreel Gaad
Editor - Vaishnavi Bhojane
Graphics - Akshaya Shankarganesh