Pope condemns BIFF attacks on civilians
Pope Francis has condemned the recent attacks by a breakaway Muslim rebel group that killed at least nine civilians in Mindanao, calling the acts “senseless.”
The pontiff’s feelings were relayed to Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo in a telegram sent on Monday by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
“The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of 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, who visited the Philippines in January, said he was saddened by the attacks and asked all believers “to reject violence in the name of God.”
The pontiff is also hoping that security and safety “will be established” in the troubled region “so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear.”
Pope Francis also called on the faithful to join him in praying for the victims and their families.
In simultaneous attacks, the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) killed seven farmers and two other civilians in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and North Cotabato on Christmas Eve.
Malacañang last night affirmed Pope Francis’ call for “peace and security through dialogue and tolerance” in the aftermath of the killing of innocent civilians by the BIFF.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, in a statement, said “government troops are conducting intensive operations to protect the citizens from such attacks.”
Responding Army soldiers also killed four rebels in the Sultan Kudarat attack.
The BIFF broke away from the mainstream Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 due to disagreements over the peace deal with the government to end up the long decades of turmoil in Mindanao.
Even though the BIFF has ceased its attacks for the past two days, the military will continue its pursuit of those responsible for the deaths of the nine civilians.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines also urged residents affected by the BIFF attacks in Mindanao to remain vigilant and alert should atrocities happen again.
Col. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, vowed that law enforcers would give justice to the nine civilians killed in a series of offensives in villages in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato.
“Our troops remain on high alert along with our policemen. Law enforcement operations will continue to pursue the criminals behind these killings; they are being hunted down continuously,” Padilla told a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo.
Apart from the civilian casualties, five BIFF rebels were also killed in the attacks on military detachments in Mindanao.
The AFP noted that for the past two days, there was no harassment or offensive in the areas previously attacked by the BIFF.
Majority of the civilians attacked on Christmas Eve and succeeding days were Christian communities. With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Jerry E. Esplanada
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