A Southern Philippines Catholic Parish was attacked by extremist Islamic group Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Dec. 3, according to a report.
The International Christian Concern (ICC) said that the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, or BIFF, "plotted to set ablaze Sta. Teresita parish church" and the nearby Notre Dame high school in Cotabato City, Maguindanao after "around 50 gunmen" stormed in the area "in response to the earlier arrest" of its members.
The attack of men who have "sworn allegiance to IS", particularly to "ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi" as shown in a 2014 YouTube video, as per ICC, sent civilians in Datu Piang town "cowering in fear in their homes."
A post in Facebook by Sta. Teresita parishioner Denz Bazada said the attack happened at 11 p.m. and that "no casualties" were "reported." Bazada's post included photos of the parish before and after the attack.
December 3, 2020. Sta Teresita Parish, Datu Piang, Maguindanao. at around 11:00PM the community was surprised by...
The Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the ICC explained, is "an Islamic separatist organization which seeks an independent Islamic state for the Filipino Muslim minority, known as the Moro people, who live primarily in the Philippines' Mindanao region."
A Dec. 7 online report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed photos of bullet holes visible on the glass windows of the Sta. Teresita church as high as the choir's chamber, which is at the second floor; and the image of Sta. Teresita or St. Therese of Lisieux, who is the patron of Catholics in the area.
Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Chief Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez applauded the efforts of the local police to contain the situation and get into custody the terrorists who were mostly lead by teenagers, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said.
"I commend the police and soldiers who withstand (sic) the attack and foiled attempts to burn the church. Unfortunately, a police car was torched," Rodriguez said.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, initial findings on the attack showed that it was "in retaliation for the killing of Abu Suffian, a BIFF member, in Cotabato City last Dec. 1".
While other findings, as per Inquirer, show that it was targetted to Datu Piang Police Chief Capt. Israel Bayona "who had led the arrest of two men with relatives in the BIFF prior to the terrorists' siege". Bayona was already relieved of his duties for this reason.
Circumstances show that this the reason why the terrorists first burned the police car when they "stormed the police and Army outpost" that was at the back of the Sta. Teresita church.
The Inquirer added that another motive considered by the police is "the alleged rivalry involving town officials, one of whom has close relatives in BIFF".
Meanwhile, criminal charges were filed against the terrorists while the Special Action Force of the police along with two companies of the 34th Infantry Battalion have secured Datu Piang in line with the attack.
Ironically, the attack came a day after the National Director of Caritas Philippines, which is the Catholic Church's social action office, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo called for peace spaces in conflict areas in Mindanao.
In a report by CBCP News, the bishop, who is assigned in Kidapawan, Cotabato, cited churches, hospitals, mosques, market places, schools, and sports centers as peace spaces.
(Accompanying image: StaRitaParishAttack_ByDenzBazada.jpg)