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New armed group posing threat to GPH-MILF talks — military


A new armed group operating in Central Mindanao has been seen as a threat to the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), military officials said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said this is the reason why the military is coordinating with the MILF in going after members of the Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao, the group blamed for the deadly July 26 bombing in Cagayan de Oro city.

“We have operations ongoing jointly with the MILF to scour the areas in Mindanao,” Bautista  told a forum organized by the Manila Overseas Press Club on Tuesday night.

AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the new group “poses as a threat to the peace process.”

Zagala said Khilafa has “possible plans that may impede the finality of the peace talks with the MILF so it’s a concern for the AFP and the MILF.”

Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao is said to be composed of members of the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway faction of the MILF.

Bautista said the membership of the group is “small” but could not give specific number. “Its membership is coming from different (organizations), including some from the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

A member of the group, one Usman Hapdis alias Mam Man, has been identified as the prime suspect in the Cagayan de Oro blast, which killed nine people. Multiple murder and frustrated murder charges have already been filed against him.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said they “are one with the MILF” in going after groups perpetrating terroristic activities.

“There is a common goal or common cause between the MILF and the AFP in order to prevent any acts of (terror)... to get lawless elements, to bring them before the bar of justice,” Tutaan said without specifying the kind of assistance the MILF is providing.

The government and the MILF have established a body called Ad Hoc Joint Action Group as part of the ongoing peace process. Composed of miliary and MILF representatives, the body is tasked to interdict criminal elements in MILF areas.  — KBK, GMA News
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