By Malu Cadelina Manar
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Child warriors are also recruited in areas in North Cotabato where there are groups believed to be inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a top military official said.
Captain Edwin Encinas, chief of the public affairs of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, accused the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) of recruiting children and teenagers to join their group.
Encinas said the BIFF is a militant group said to be inspired by the ISIS. In North Cotabato, the group is led by a certain Esmael Abdulmalik or Abu Torayfe, he stressed.
Reports said in Southwest Mindanao, about 200 children and teenagers have been recruited by militant groups.
In North Cotabato, however, there is yet no exact number as to how many were recruits of Torayfe’s BIFF.
“We monitored their recruitment during the first quarter of the year. It is still ongoing,” Encinas said.
“Hindi natin nilulubayan ang grupo ni Torayfe. Also, tuluy-tuloy din ang forum na ginagawa natin para wag mahikayat ang mga kabataan na sumapi sa BIFF,” said Encinas.
Early October this year, the 602nd Brigade has intensified its military offensives against the BIFF said to be hiding in two villages in Carmen, North Cotabato.
The aerial bombardment in areas in Carmen town where militants were sighted led to the displacement of some 200 families from Barangays Tonganon and Bentangan.
Two days ago, the military overran the camps put up by the BIFF in Tonganon and Bentangan in Carmen, according to Encinas.
Torayfe and his group, according to reports, were forced to abandon their lairs after the Army intensified military offensives in the area.