Army credits civilian informants for arrest of ex-BIFF leader

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 March) — A tip from “alert” residents reportedly led to the arrest here on Sunday night of a former ranking leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and four of his men.

Col. Roland Villanueva, commander of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said former BIFF vice chair Ustadz Mohammad Ali Tambako and his men were tracked down and eventually captured by intelligence operatives based on credible information earlier provided by concerned residents.

“We thank the citizens of GenSan for providing the law enforcers — the security officers – this vital information,” he told reporters.

Villanueva did not provide further details regarding the tip but noted that many local residents have been helping local authorities in monitoring the presence of suspicious individuals in their communities.

Before Tambako was arrested, Villanueva said concerned residents alerted authorities about some “new faces” and their unusual movements.

Tambako, who was tagged as the founder of supposed BIFF splinter group Justice for Islam Movement (JIM), and his four companions were nabbed aboard a tricycle along the national highway in Barangay Calumpang at past 9 p.m. Sunday.

The four other suspects were identified as Mesharie Gayak, Datukan Sabiwang, Ali Ludisma and Abusama Guiamel.

On Monday, police operatives recovered several bomb-making materials in a raid on a house in Dona Soledad Subdivision in Barangay Labangal that was previously rented by Tambako.

The raiding team led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 12 specifically found detonating cords, improvised circuit boxes, blasting caps, blasting powder, switches and batteries.

The team raided another house in the same village that was supposedly rented earlier by Tambako but found nothing.

Tambako and his companions, who yielded three handguns and three hand grenades, were immediately flown to Manila before noon on Monday.

Ibrahim Kapina, the driver of the tricycle carrying Tambako’s group, was initially held for questioning at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 12 headquarters here but was later released.

He contended that he was not a part of Tambako’s group and was just hired for P180 to ferry them to a destination in Uhaw, Barangay Fatima here.

Tambako was a trusted lieutenant of BIFF founding chair Uztadz Ameril Umra Kato and had acted as leader of the group when the latter fell seriously ill.

He reportedly broke ties with Kato in 2013 and formed JIM along with some of his followers. (MindaNews)