Violence Mars Ramadan Start in Southern Philippines

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines
2021-04-14
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Violence Mars Ramadan Start in Southern Philippines Philippine police inspect weapons seized during a raid of a suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters hideout in Maguindanao province, while presenting two men and two women who were arrested after the operation, April 14, 2021.
Mark Navales/BenarNews

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on a violent note in the southern Philippines where authorities mounted a deadly raid on a suspected pro-Islamic State bomber’s hideout and a family of three was killed in an ambush, officials said Wednesday.

Police were dispatched to Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao province to arrest Abu Naim, a member of the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who was implicated in a series of bombings in the region, but officers met with resistance early Wednesday, authorities said.

Naim and his companions provoked a gun battle when they opened fire at the arresting officers, said Maj. Esmael Madin, chief of operations for the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“We retaliated and killed a companion,” Madin told BenarNews, adding that Abu Naim escaped. 

Madin identified the dead man as Marcos Manungal, a former village chief who allegedly was involved in illegal drug trafficking and extortion.

Police later arrested four suspected militants, including the mother and wife of Abu Naim. They also recovered firearms and homemade bombs from the hideout, Madin said.

“Naim was involved in various bombing activities in the region. He works as a bomb expert for BIFF under Turaife,” Madin said, referring to Abu Turaife, the leader of the BIFF, a fringe militant group in the south. 

The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had been the country’s largest Muslim separatist force before it signed a peace pact with the government. The MILF now controls the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

Turaife’s group and other smaller militant organizations, in the meantime, have continued to stage attacks in the south. 

Family killed

On Tuesday – the first full day of Ramadan in the Philippines – a Muslim couple and their child died when they were ambushed as they drove in their car before noon in southern Cotabato city. 

Gunmen in a brown SUV fired shots into the family’s car, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported.

The couple have been identified as trader Ali Abdulrahim Tamal and his wife, Norma Dalimbang. Police did not release information about the child. 

“They died in an ambush,” a police report of the incident said. The case was under investigation, but it could be tied to rido (vendetta killings), a practice prevalent in the region, or was carried out by “militants to sow terror.”

Police said they suspect the attack could have been motivated by a blood feud, but did not rule out the involvement of militants. 

The attack and raid occurred as millions of Filipino Muslims in the country – who are mostly concentrated in the southern Mindanao region – started their Ramadan fasting. They fast from sun up to sun down each day.

Ramadan will give way on May 13 to Eid al-Fitr, an Arabic term which means “festival of breaking the fast.”

A BenarNews correspondent in Zamboanga, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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