Army operations against misguided militants in Maguindanao continue

Mindanao Armed Conflict  • Tue Mar 14, 2017 06:29 PM  •  240   0
By John Unson
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Government forces scour the marshland of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao in pursuit of outlawed BIFF. (John Unson)
Government forces scour the marshland of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao in pursuit of outlawed BIFF. (John Unson)
MAGUINDANAO --- Three Maranaw extremists were reportedly wounded in the military’s continuing bombardment since Monday of a training camp of fanatical jihadists in Salibo town in Maguindanao.

More than 400 ethnic Maguindanaon families have evacuated to safer areas after Army units started shelling the enclave there of a breakaway faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters led by Commander Salahudin, whose real name is Salahudin Hassan.

The Army operation in Salibo’s adjoining Barangays Andavit and Gawang was launched after authorities learned that Salahudin and companions Abdulmalik Esmael, Bashir Ungab, Nasser Adil and Ansari Yunos are coddling a foreign militant named Mauwiyah.

Salahudin and his four henchmen were jointly trained in handling and fabrication of improvised explosive devices in nearby Mamasapano town in 2014 by the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan, and his Maguindanaon accomplice, Abdulbasit Usman.

The elusive Mauwiyah is also known as Hamoody Ali, Mohammad Ali and Suharduno.

He is of mixed Singaporean-Indonesian descent and is a member of the Jemaah Islamiya, which started as a cell in Indonesia of the Al-Qaeda and eventually became identified with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Displaced residents said three Maranaw members of the Dawlah Islamiya, which is based in Butig town in Lanao del Sur, were hurt when artillery shells landed in the hideout of Salahudin in the initial barrage of artillery fire from nearby Army positions.

“They were carried away from the scene by companions and brought to a marshy area near the boundary of the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato,” a local official said Tuesday.

Mauwiyah and Salahudin were said to have relocated to a swampy area in Butilen District near Talitay town in Maguindanao as the bombardment ensued.

Barangay leaders said they have been receiving persistent feedback from informants purporting that the radical BIFF faction under Salahudin and the Dawlah Islamiya, more popularly known as the “Maute” terror group, have merged in November 2016.

“That explains why three Maranaws from Lanao del Sur were allegedly injured when mortar projectiles hit the hideout of Salahudin,” one of the sources said. Two of the three Maranaw militants can fluently speak the Cebuano dialect, according to the sources.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over Maguindanao and nearby Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato provinces, said one of the targets of the on-going law enforcement operation in Salibo is Imam Bongos, a leader of another BIFF faction.

In a statement Tuesday, the 6th ID said its law enforcement activities in Salibo and nearby towns were properly coordinated with the joint ceasefire committee helping oversee the enforcement of the 1997 interim truce between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF enjoins both sides to mutually cooperate in addressing peace and security issues in potential conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces. 
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