Army overruns bandits’ base in Maguindanao

Army Col. Paul Atal, 75IB commanding officer, said the camp was used as headquarters of Commander TMX, suspected leader of a group operating in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

Soldiers led by 2Lt. Lloyd Orcullo, of the 75IB’s Alpha Company, engaged the armed men in a firefight that lasted for hours in remote Barangay Pimbalayan in SK Pendatun, Maguindanao. The said town is part of the Liguasan marsh, known lair of kidnap-for-ransom gangs and other armed groups.

Col. Atal tagged Commander TMX as one of the leaders of armed groups that helped rescue some of the inmates at the North Cotabato Provincial Rehabilitation Center in Amas Complex, this city, last Feb. 2.

Commander TMX reportedly brought some of the fugitives to the marsh on-board pump boats using the Pikit-Kabacan-SK Pendatun route.

The military said residents in Pimbalayan tipped off the 75IB of the massing of troops of TMX’s group in the area. The residents were reportedly surprised to see “new faces” at the camp.

After engaging the government troops in a firefight, the armed men withdrew to the marsh, a terrain that they have mastered for years, the military report said.

Raiding soldiers recovered from the camp assorted ammunitions, camouflage uniforms, combat boots and voluminous “valuable” documents left by the suspects. The Army said these include manuals, photographs of their targets or victims, and training certificates from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Our men also recovered a placard which proved that the group is part of the Special Operations Group in charge of kidnappings, extortions and other atrocities in Central Mindanao,” said Atal.

He likened the camp to a military headquarter as it has foxholes, barricades and running trenches.

Also, one of the indications that Commander TMX’s group has links to the Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom group was the discovery of a photograph of a certain Titing Managuili, one of the leaders of the group that helped Commander Alonto escaped from the General Santos City jail in 2001, the Army said.

Commander TMX, before he organized his own group in early 2000, has been identified as one of the closest aides of Commander Alonto Tahir, leader of the Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom group. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)