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Government stalling prompts terrorism

MANILA (AsiaNews): Execution-style attacks on farmers in Maguindanao on Christmas Eve have been attributed to fear over the stalling of the government in the signing of the basic peace agreement governing Mindanao.

Father Sebastiano D’Ambra said on December 28, “The Bangsamoro Basic Law seems set to fail. There are elections next year (2016) and the government has postponed all of these minor deals.”

The Italian priest from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions says that the uncertainty favours the more radical groups that are demanding total independence from Manila

“The Bangsamoro Independent Freedom Fighters have taken this opportunity to be heard and show that they are powerful. In other words, the strategy is to say: we are strong and you have to listen to us,” he said.

Father D’Ambra added, “The terrorists have taken advantage of the situation and have made the attacks, which occurred at different times and places. Unfortunately, the agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government has not been concluded, and these are the results.”

He continued, “The Freedom Fighters want to prove that they are linked to the Islamic State (IS). A few months ago they declared their support for the IS, like the Abu Sayyaf Group, which aims to create an independent Muslim state in the south of the country.”

Father D’Ambra, who has lived in Mindanao and worked in the area of Christian-Muslim relations for decades, said, “Quite often, just to impress this on others, only news of attacks against Christians are reported. It is possible that Christians are a more sensitive target than others, but it is good to be cautious and I would not say that the latest attacks were not officially and explicitly anti-Christian.”

He said that it is more likely to be an attack to demonstrate the strength of the militia and to say that their theory of total separation from Manila and that they are against any deal being made with the government.

On Christmas Eve, groups from the Freedom Fighters were reported by the military to have murdered more than 20 farmers in total in various places around Maguindanao.

“It is troubling, what has happened is not a good sign. These terrorists could repeat the same attacks in other places and at other times. We’ll see. It’s not nice what is going on, it will certainly have an impact,” Father D’Ambra warned.


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