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MILF faction won’t give up arms, in talks with rival rebs

A LARGE faction within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front disapproves of the disarmament provision in the peace agreement it forged with the government and has begun talks with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which is harboring foreign terrorists in Mindanao, sources said on Wednesday.

But the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said it stands “solidly” behind the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro it forged with the government, including its provision on disarmament, according to MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar

Jaafar made the assurance amid reports that a large faction, led by a certain Hashim Salamat, supposedly a nephew of the deceased MILF founder also named Hashim Salamat, is undertaking “realignment” talks with the BIFF and the terrorists it is harboring.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, confirmed on Tuesday that foreign jihadists Zulkifli Abhir, alias Marwan, of Malaysia and Mohammad Ali, alias Muawiyah, of Singapore are both operating locally with the BIFF.

Pangilinan, however, declined to comment on reports that a certain Abu Saad and one Quiam, both foreign jihadists of undetermined nationalities, were also operating with the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf group.

“Those foreign individuals monitored were Marwan and Muawiyah,” Pangilinan admitted. “As to whether they are [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], I have not established that.”

But former President Fidel Ramos said the government should undertake all security measures “to prevent and pre-empt” any terrorist activity in the country, especially since Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country in January.

“The ISIS threat is its ideology and not its physical presence,” Ramos said during the book launching of “Front Pages of Philippine History” written by veteran Spanish journalist Jose “Pepe” Rodriguez held at the Writers Bar of Raffles Hotel in Makati City Tuesday night.

Ramos, who was defense secretary and Armed Forces chief of staff before he became president, likened the IS ideology as an unseen “virus” that only manifests itself when people are already infected.

He recalled that the 1995 Bojinka Plot, an elaborate terrorist plan that involved assassinating Pope John Paul the Great during his visit to the country, was only uncovered with timely intelligence operations.

But the Bojinka plot was later implemented when Al-Qaeda attacked the United States in 2001, he said.

He said information of Isis presence in the country is not new, considering that there are over a million Filipino overseas workers in the Middle East and spread out to other countries where there are young people who are idealistic.

Al-Qaeda is known to operate in the country through the Abu Sayyaf group and the BIFF, some of whose senior leaders were trained by Al-Qaeda during the Afghanistan civil war that started in 1978.

BIFF leader Samer Samsudin claimed in July the BIFF sent 200 volunteers to help IS in its holy war in Iraq and Syria. The Abu Sayyaf, in the same month, posted YouTube videos showing their leaders swearing allegiance to the IS. With Ben Cal

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