Thursday Feb, 29 2024 10:23:59 AM

21 Dawlah men neutralized before Marawi City campus bombing

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 16:45 PM Mon Dec 4, 2023
John Felix Unson

COTABATO CITY - The deadly bombing of Christian worshipers in Marawi City on Sunday came after state forces had killed up to 21 religious extremists in separate operations in Mindanao since June, among them the “emir” of the Dawlah Islamiya, wanted for 36 high-profile criminal cases in different courts.

The bomb explosion on Sunday morning in the Dimaporo Gymnasium at the campus of the Mindanao State University in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur killed four worshipers --- Risa Dancel, Janine Arenas, Junerey Arbante, and Jen Aromin --- and hurt more than 30 others. Non-Muslim students, MSU employees, and faculty members are free to use the facility for Sunday prayer rites and other religious gatherings.  

Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr. told reporters via Viber message on Monday that he shall provide the families of the four blast fatalities with the financial assistance needed for their burial. Adiong, who had condemned the atrocity early on, said that his office had paid for the medicines initially needed in the treatment of the blast victims now in different hospitals.

“Besides our humanitarian efforts, we are doing our best to help the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines locate the perpetrators of this barbaric act,” Adiong said.

Officials in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the region’s police director, Brig. Allan Nobleza and the commander of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, separately told reporters that the MSU gymnasium bombing seemed connected to the government’s having neutralized at least 21 senior members of the Dawlah Islamiya in one encounter after another in different areas in Mindanao in the past seven months.

Among them was Abdulkarim Lumbatan Hashim, a Maguindanaon most known as the Dawlah Islamiya’s “Commander Jacket” and implicated in bombings, extortion, multiple murders and trafficking of narcotics. He died in a gunfight with policemen and personnel of intelligence units under the 6th Infantry Division on February 17, 2023 in a bus terminal in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat province. 
Hashim's group was responsible for the fatal ambush last year of Police Lt. Reynaldo Samson and a subordinate, Corporal Salipudin Endab, in an interior barangay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao del Sur. Samson, then chief of the Ampatuan Municipal Police Station, and six companions were out to arrest a law offender in an interior barangay in the municipality when they were shot with assault rifles by Hashim and his followers, positioned along the route.

On July 6, 2023, personnel of the Army's 603rd Infantry Brigade under 6th ID killed a provincial Dawlah Islamiya leader, Zaideen Jade Nilong,  in an encounter in Sitio Malabong in Barangay Lumitan in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. Two of his brothers were killed in an encounter with soldiers in the same municipality 10 days before.

Monday’s bombing in Marawi City came after personnel of units under the Army’s 6th Infantry Division killed 11 ethnic Maguindanaon members of the Dawlah Islamiya in a clash on Friday afternoon, about 16 hours before, in Barangay Tuayan in Datu Hoffer town in Maguindanao del Sur province, where there are areas that are bastions of the group and its ally, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Last Saturday, about 10 hours after the incident in Maguindanao del Sur that resulted in the death of 11 terrorists, soldiers under the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade led by Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon and policemen killed in a brief shootout in Basilan a wanted member of the Dawlah Islamiya’s central committee, the Abu Sayyaf leader Mudzrimar Sawadjaan, a Tausug.

Facing 19 criminal cases in different courts, Sawadjaan, an expert in the fabrication of improvised explosive devices, was tagged in all deadly bomb attacks in Sulu in the past ten years, including the January 27, 2019 bombing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in the provincial capital town Jolo that left 20 churchgoers dead and injured 97 others.

Nobleza said the government’s most spectacular joint police and military anti-terror campaign accomplishment was achieved just last June 2023 -  that of the demise of the `emir,’ meaning grand leader in Arabic, of all terrorist groups in Mindanao, Faharudin Pumbuaya Pangalian, in an encounter with soldiers and policemen in Sarimanok area in Marawi City.

Combined intelligence agents of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade and PRO-BAR and agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were to peacefully serve Pangalian, a Maranao, with different warrants of arrest for various cases but was killed immediately instead when he pulled out an assault rifle and opened fire.

The Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade and the Basilan Provincial Police Office have, meanwhile, tightened security in all towns in the province in anticipation of possible retaliation by sympathizers of the slain Sawadjaan, who was killed on Saturday in a brief encounter with a joint police-Army maritime patrol team at the border of the territorial seas of the adjoining Tipo-Tipo and Tuburan towns in the island province.

The Abu Sayyaf, the Dawlah Islamiya and the BIFF, all using the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as their revolutionary banner, have a reputation for setting off powerful improvised explosive devices in populated areas and passenger vehicles to avenge the deaths of members killed in clashes with pursuing soldiers and policemen.

“Our men on the ground are guarding against that with the help of local government units,” Luzon, who has jurisdiction over Army units in Basilan, said Monday.


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