Games to replace war for Philippine leader’s visit

Updated 11 February 2013
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Games to replace war for Philippine leader’s visit

MANILA: Soldiers and guerrilla fighters will meet in sporting events instead of combat when Philippine President Benigno Aquino makes a historic visit to a rebel camp to promote a peace pact, officials said yesterday.
A “fluvial parade” of dozens of colorfully decorated motorboats will also welcome Aquino today when he visits the outskirts of the main base of the 12,000-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the country’s south.
Aquino and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim will meet in the strife-torn island of Mindanao to hand out social security benefits to impoverished Muslim residents to show their sincerity in furthering the peace process.
Local military spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso said both soldiers and MILF fighters would guard the area although presidential guards would handle Aquino’s personal security.

The two sides, who once fought each other fiercely, will also play “friendly matches” of football, softball and volleyball to welcome the president, Hermoso told radio station DZBB.
However popular sports like basketball were deliberately left out, he said.
“We did not include the contact games for now because there might be some people who will be provoked. They might lose their tempers and things might get heated,” the colonel said.
There are no reports of any threat to the president, Hermoso said. But he added: “We are not complacent in our security precautions. The worst-case scenario has been considered.”
Chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the event was historic as it as the first time for a president to enter the main MILF stronghold.
The two leaders may not have time to discuss substantive issues, he said. “The most special thing (about the event) is the confidence-building.”
Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the president’s visit would show the sincerity of both sides in reaching out to Muslims who are among the poorest people in the archipelago.
She said the mood would be “very festive.”
An estimated 150,000 people died in a decades-long fight by guerrilla fighters for a separate state in the southern third of the mainly Christian Philippines.
But in October last year the MILF signed a “framework agreement” with Aquino’s government committing both sides to form a new autonomous entity on Mindanao by 2016, when Aquino ends his six-year term.
The MILF vowed to give up its quest for an independent homeland in exchange for significant power and wealth-sharing in a new autonomous region.

 


Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

Updated 28 min 32 sec ago
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Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

  • Online messages from Daesh propagandists say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal
  • His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia

JAKARTA/MANILA: Indonesia is investigating reports from Daesh supporters that the most senior Southeast Asian commander of the militant group was killed by US air strikes in eastern Syria last week, counter-terrorism officials said.
Online messages from Daesh propagandists viewed by Reuters say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal, last Tuesday.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, said the embassy in Syria had made enquiries but had yet to confirm Bahrumsyah’s death.
Two senior Indonesian counter-terrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were taking the online reports seriously.
“We are in the process of investigating,” said one senior official with Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency.
If the reports were true, it would become a “motivation to carry out reprisal attacks” in Indonesia, the senior official said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, said US aircraft were bombing the “general area” in eastern Syria on the day Bahrumsyah is believed to have died but was unable to confirm his death.
As well as leading Katibah Nusantara, an armed unit comprising more than 100 Southeast Asians, Bahrumsyah also organized funding for the Islamist rebels who captured part of the southern Philippines city of Marawi in a bloody siege last year, analysts and officials say.
A message purportedly from the Daesh figure Abu Nuh reviewed by Reuters said Bahrumsyah had been attending a meeting of leaders when he was killed. An Daesh headquarters and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device factory were destroyed in the attack, the message said.
Another post eulogized the Indonesian, receiving sympathetic comments and crying emojis.
There were reports last year of Bahrumsyah’s death, but analyst Sidney Jones from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said the latest had a “much higher degree of credibility”.
“As far as we know, he was the highest ranking Indonesian to fight with ISIS. The fact that he commanded a fighting unit that was recognized by ISIS underscores his importance,” said Jones, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia, where fears of hardened fighters returning from Syria as the militants’ self-declared caliphate crumbles has authorities on alert.
More than 600 Indonesians, including at least 166 women and children, traveled to Syria to join Daesh, according to data from Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency reviewed by Reuters.
A further 482 Indonesians were deported by foreign governments trying to join Daesh.
“I don’t expect a flood of people to come back (to Indonesia), although there will be some people trying,” Jones said.