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ICC Note: Suspects who have vandalized the Catholic Church in Shariff Aguak, the province of Maguindanao, are yet to be found, according to the Philippine authorities. In order to narrow down their investigation, the authorities are considering the ownership of the land where the Church is, the violent religious extremists who might have orchestrated the attack, and a potential group that is trying to stir up animosity between Christians and Muslims in the region. Catholic Cardinal Orlando Quevedo hopes that the authorities will identify the intruders and bring them to justice. Incidents like this have been very rare in this region in the past.

11/16/2017 Philippines (PhilStar) – Authorities have yet to identify suspects and motives behind the burning of Catholic icons in a chapel in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao over the weekend.

Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said investigators are looking into three angles in the case.

“Let us give them enough time to wind up with their investigation on the incident,” he said.

He said an ownership dispute over the land on which the chapel stands is being considered.

“Another angle is that violent religious extremists were behind the attack,” Tello said, referring to armed groups like the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which operates in parts of the province.

He said they have also received reports from villagers that a yet to be identified group is trying to stir up animosity among Muslim and Christian residents.

The provincial police chief said local officials have asked senior commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help find the people behind the vandalism.

Shariff Aguak Mayor Marop Ampatuan, chairman of the municipal peace and order council, has already offered a reward of P50,000 for any information that would lead to the arrest of the culprits.

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