Military shuts down MSU campus in search of ‘criminals’By Julie S. Alipala, Richel Umel
Philippine Daily Inquirer
COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The military shut down the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi City Thursday as soldiers searched for gunmen who killed three soldiers and wounded 10 others in an ambush there the previous night.
Colonel Daniel Lucero, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, said no one was allowed to leave or enter the MSU campus, which encompasses five villages and is home to people other than members of the academe.
The closure of the state-run university elicited negative reactions, with residents accusing the military of imposing martial law.
Text messages also started circulating in Marawi City, accusing the military of curtailing academic freedom.
But Mujiv Hataman, acting governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said what the military was doing was to clear the MSU campus of criminal elements, including kidnappers and drug pushers.
“We need to ensure that there is academic freedom inside campus,” he said in a text message.
Lucero said the operation was against 15 gunmen led by one Otik Anwar and another man identified only as Satar.
A military source who requested anonymity said the soldiers who were ambushed Wednesday night were responding to rifle shots inside the university campus when they were fired upon by the armed men, whose leader, identified only as Gamal, was killed by soldiers last month.
The source said Gamal was shot dead by soldiers on July 14 after he fired at a detachment of the 65th Infantry Battalion in Marawi City.
The source said the ambush could have been part of the gang’s “retaliatory moves” for the death of their leader. Early this early this week, the source added, two soldiers belonging to the 65th IB were killed while guarding the Land Transportation Office in Marawi City.
“This ambush was staged in retaliation to the relentless support of the army to the PNP against criminals. This is the fourth incident wherein army personnel were targeted by these gang members,” Lucero said.