COTABATO CITY — Police and military authorities here were placed on alert on Sunday, ahead of the celebration of Islamic Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) among more than three million Muslims across the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Police officers and soldiers were deployed in designated areas in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tai-Tawi, where outdoor congregational prayers are to take place early Monday, a national holiday.
Special concerns among Islamic clerics are the security of civilians in Sulu, where there is an ongoing military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Regional government officials have asked the Muslim faithful to peacefully observe the religious festivity with more prayers, charitable activities and offer prayers for the restoration of peace in the troubled provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
Government forces have been hunting down relentlessly the Abu Sayyaf bandits on orders of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to put a stop to kidnapping and beheading actions of the extremist groups who pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The 6th Infantry Division which covers Cotabato City, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and part of Lanao del Sur has put up more checkpoints along major thoroughfares to ensure peaceful and solemn observance of Eud’l Adha.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have threatened to disrupt the festivities on Monday. But the other extremist group which also sympathizes with the ISIS and based mainly in Maguindanao denied reports of destabilization from them.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operate in Maguindanao and are blamed for the series of roadside bombings in the province, the latest of which was on Sept. 8 that injured a soldier in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town. Noel Y. Punzalan and Edwin O. Fernandez/PNA/northboundasia.com