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Pope condemns killings in Southern Philippines

MANILA (Agencies): Pope Francis has decried the Christmas Eve attacks in Southern Philippines by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed (BIFF) in which at least seven farmers and two other civilians were killed. 

Pope Francis said he was saddened by the attacks and asked all believers “to reject violence in the name of God”.

The breakaway Muslim rebel group launched simultaneous attacks in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and North Cotabato.

A spokesperson for the government forces told the Inquirer that five of the farmers were tending their farms when they were captured and later shot, point blank, one by one.

In response, government soldiers killed four rebels in Sultan Kudarat and recovered high-powered firearms.

CBCP News reported that the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a telegramme to Orlando Cardinal Quevedo from Cotabato, on December 28 expressing the pope’s concern.

“The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn about the senseless killing of innocent people in Mindanao and he sends condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” the statement said.

The pope said he hopes that security and safety can be established in the troubled region so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear.

He called for prayers for the victims and their families.

The BIFF was formed in 2010 by Ameril Umbra Kato, who refused to accept any peace deal with the government and broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2008.

Kato passed away in April 2015 and was succeeded by Ismael Abubakar, the former vice-chairperson for the groups political affairs.


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