MNLF-Jikiri Group activates TF to help government vs Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

An online article by Philstar posted on July 3 says that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF-Jikiri) activated Saturday its Anti-Kidnapping and Anti-Terrorism Task Force in Sulu on Saturday to help the military against the Abu Sayyaf and its affiliates.

Yusup Jikiri, the newly-installed Chairman of the MNLF Council of 15, and former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema led the launching of the task force inside a school in Barangay Pasil in Indanan town and committed to field a battalion of fighters against the Abu Sayyaf, said the article. 

It will be composed of about 500-800 combatants, many of whom are battle-tested in the past.

 “The members of the task force are former combatants who have retired but are ready to serve with the MNLF and the cause of peace”, said Chairman Jikiri, a former mayor of Jolo town.

Jikiri said the task force is an initiative of the MNLF Central Committee and has been discussed with and approved by the Duterte administration.

He said they also discussed the activation of the task force with Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (Western Mindanao Command), Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana (Joint Task Force Sulu), National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza.

“There is nothing to hide regarding the tasks and function of the MNLF Task Force. We created it because we want to help the government, the military, the local government units and our people, the residents of the community, in the common drive against kidnapping and terrorism,” Jikiri told MNLF fighters and military and local government officials.

“The bandits and the terrorists are abusing the lives and livelihoods of our people and besmirching the good name of Islam and the Muslims by their misguidance, banditry and terroristic activities,” Philstar quoted Jikiri saying.

“The MNLF wants to rid its communities of criminal elements and rejects the bandits and terrorist groups using their areas as hideouts”, Jikiri added.

“We don’t want them to seek whatever assistance from the residents of the MNLF areas in furtherance of their evil objectives,” Jikiri said.

“We are commanded by Allah not to remain with folded arms and do nothing against those bandits and terrorists who abuse our people and communities by committing crimes right in our backyard,” he also said. 

The military said the creation of the MNLF task force can help the government against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The terror group, which has been the target of sustained government offensives, has reportedly split up to evade authorities.

Brig. Gen. Sobejana said they have received information that the Abu Sayyaf have been slipping out of the Mt. Sinumaan Complex, the center of military operations in Patikul. 

“And this anti-kidnapping task force can fill up that vacuum in coordination with us,” Sobejana said.

However, Sobejana said the MNLF task force cannot operate without coordination with the military.