AWANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/02 March) – Military and police authorities in Maguindanao are hunting down four “Indonesians” and an “Arab-looking chemist” who were reportedly hiding in the province with Filipino bomb making expert Basit Usman, officials said on Saturday.
Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander made the announcement after meeting with local officials at the division headquarters in this town.
Citing intelligence information, Pangilinan said the four suspected foreigners were seen with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao.
He said the Army is closely monitoring them in the SPMS Box, a military term referring to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Salibo (Shariff Saydona) complex where the BIFF presence is reportedly strong.
The Army, Marines and police jointly launched operations against the BIFF in Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Friday which led to the temporary closure of a major road network for about six hours.
“We are running after relentlessly these foreign nationals. They are with Basit Usman and in the company of BIFF, because the MILF will not coddle these terrorists, I presume,” Pangilinan told reporters after meeting with Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and mayors of the province.
“I also have that information about this foreign Arab-looking man in the company of the BIFF and Usman’s group. I hope after this meeting the civilians and local officials will help report to authorities their presence in their communities,” Mangudadatu said.
“I appeal to our local people, down to the communities. We should help prevent these lawless people, these extremists who are making our lives difficult. Please join hands with the authorities to locate these people,” the governor added.
Both Mangudadatu and Pangilinan said the “foreigners” have been teaching “radical Islam” in madrasah and before young Maguindanaons.
“In madrasah, Basit Usman was a good speaker on fundamentalism and Islamic radicalism that is why he could easily dupe young ones,” Pangilinan said.
“Most of those who engaged the military there were not fighters. They were children as young as 10 to 15 years old,” Pangiliman said referring to the Army offensive in Camp Omar in 2012 in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Unsay towns, Maguindanao.
Both Pangilinan and Mangudadatu lambasted the BIFF for using allegedly using minors as combatants and civilians as human shields.
The BIFF allegedly attempted to close the highway yesterday by planting an improvised explosive device near the residential area in Maitumaig, but it was immediately defused by military bomb experts.
Last Friday’s offensive against the BIFF in Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi Ampatuan forced 3,000 civilians to flee.
Anwar Malang, Interior and Local Governments Secretary in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao urged the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak to declare a state of calamity to hasten delivery of assistance to the displaced families. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)