(Voice of the Persecuted) 7 Christian farmers were killed during a series of attacks by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Christmas Eve.
Christmas attacks by Muslim rebels in Christian villages in the southern Philippines left at least 14 people dead and may have been partly influenced by the notoriety of the Islamic State group, officials said Saturday. The raids raised tensions of those in the Christians communities. One report claimed people have become so scared some go to the local gymnasium to sleep at night.
Manila Bulletin reported more attacks by the BIFF Bunayog could not rule out. BIFF continues to seek a separate Islamic state and remains opposed to a government-MILF effort to create a Muslim autonomous area in Mindanao as part of a peace agreement. The group split from main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)in 2008 after the MILF opened a peace process with the government.
Contacting a military spokesperson, USA Today spoke with Capt. Joan Petinglay by phone. About 200 rebels took part in at least eight attacks on Thursday and Friday, She said the military learned about the impending attacks and secured towns and villages and warned villagers not to venture out, preventing a larger number of casualties.
“We learned that the BIFF had plans to attack civilians and our detachments so we went on heightened alert even before Christmas,” Petinglay said. “That prevented the rebels from attacking villages and inflicting more casualties.”
Despite warnings from the military, five farmers went to their farms [on] Thursday to spray insecticide on their crops in Maguindanao province and were captured and gunned down by the rebels, she said.
In a nearby village in Esperanza town in Sultan Kudarat province, rebels fleeing from army troops took a family hostage on Thursday, freeing a mother and her child but killing three men. A village official was also gunned down by the militants late Thursday in a village in North Cotabato province.
Villagers in one area hid in a Roman Catholic church after word of the rebel assaults spread, Petinglay said.
The group had been seen meeting in numbers beyond their usual size. The motive for their new attacks on Christian communities was not known. A BIFF spokesman earlier confirmed they were behind the raids, but had said it was over a land dispute.
The BIFF seeks a separate Islamic state and establish Sharia law. The group opposes the government-MILF effort to create a Muslim autonomous area in Mindanao as part of a peace agreement. The latest attacks were the most brazen by the group to date.
Last year, the BIFF shared a video where one of its leaders pledged support for the Islamic State, the jihadists that controls a large territory in Iraq and Syria with a goal to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.