In retaliation to the continuing combat operations, a group of five-to-ten men had been operating against the joint military forces, revealed Tulawie. “They call themselves Freedom Squad. The average age of its members are from 16 to 20…They are very young and aggressive,” he said. The group claims that they are out to give justice to their fellow Muslims.
Tulawie said that four Philippine marines and two unidentified men were killed in separate incidents over the weekend and on Wednesday. “It seems that it is the military who are now being hunted,” he said.
Authorities were quick to blame the Abu Sayyaf for these incidents that targeted soldiers from the 104th Brigade in Sulu and the 3rd Marine Brigade based in Patikul town.
Tulawie said that the local government of Sulu has directed the Philippine marines to lead the implementation of stricter security measures in Jolo. But he protested this saying that the move would only lead to more killings since the marines are in a “volatile situation”.
“It appears that the continued presence of both Philippine and U.S. military forces brings about the formation of squads that operate underground to retaliate against them,” he said.
Tulawie said that the government is blaming the Abu Sayyaf and these squads for sabotaging the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). But these squads, said Tulawie, have been operating even before the ceasefire was signed.
“While it would be better for the Moro people to just heighten their protests against the government, the formation of these squads are but a consequence of the injustices being committed against the people of Sulu,” said Tulawie.
“If the government wants peace in Sulu, it must address the social and economic problems that had long been grappling the poor province, Tulawie said.
Military operations can be set aside now that the parties concerned are keen on finishing the ongoing talks between the MILF and the government, and finalizing the 1996 peace pact between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.
Citing recommendations by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which earlier culminated a three-day mission to Mindanao, Ulama said releasing former MNLF chair Nur Misuari might be the “first step” in achieving a lasting peace in Mindanao.
The OIC had condemned the April 14 bombing in Indanan, said Ulama. He added that the 16-man mission will forward its recommendations to the government to address the human rights situation in Sulu.
But with continued military operations, more “squads” coming from the ranks of those victimized by the war in Sulu would be formed, said Tulawie. With more sightings of spy planes, helicopters and troops roaming the island, peace seems to be nowhere in sight, he said. (Bulatlat.com)