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IS bombing plot stopped

Army says terror attacks targeted North Cotabato churches, markets, transport terminals
/ 05:18 AM September 27, 2017

 Members of the  Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who had sworn allegiance to Islamic State (IS) are shown in their camp in Maguindanao as their former colleagues in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (top photo) conduct an anti-IS patrol in the town of Datu Salibo. —JEOFFREY MAITEM AND AFP

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who had sworn allegiance to Islamic State (IS) are shown in their camp in Maguindanao as their former colleagues in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (top photo) conduct an anti-IS patrol in the town of Datu Salibo. —JEOFFREY MAITEM AND AFP

COTABATO CITY — The Army here on Monday said it had prevented the execution of a terror plot to conduct bombings targeting heavily populated areas in North Cotabato with the arrest of a student of the late Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and the recovery of bomb-making materials and high-powered firearms in his hideout.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, head of the 6th Infantry Division Civil-Military Operations Battalion, said the arrest of Muslimin Ladtugan, a bomb expert belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), prevented what military officials said was a string of bombings meant to divert military focus away from continuing operations against Islamic State (IS) followers in Marawi City and Maguindanao province.

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No resistance

Acting on intelligence reports, elements of the 34th
Infantry Battalion, backed by the local police, raided the hideout of Ladtugan in the village of Nabalawag, Midsayap town in North Cotabato on Monday morning.

Besana said the raiding team found materials for improvised explosive devices, an M-14 rifle, an M-16 rifle, a grenade launcher and two .45 caliber pistols from Ladtugan, who did not resist arrest.

Besana said Ladtugan had plotted to set off bombs in populated areas like terminals, markets and places of worship in North Cotabato to ease Army and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) offensives against BIFF in the town
of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao province.

BIFF was composed of former MILF guerrillas who had already sworn allegiance to IS.

Besana said Ladtugan was among the students of Marwan, who was killed in a police operation in the town of Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015, on bomb-making.

At least 44 elite policemen were also killed in the operation to get Marwan which led
to charges being filed against former President Benigno Aquino III and his former police chief, Alan Purisima.

The military is also investigating a previously unheard of group that warned of attacks against both the government and IS in Marawi City.

Legitimacy questioned

Col. Romeo Brawner, Joint Task Group Ranao deputy commander, said the military was still checking the links of the group calling itself Maranao Victims Movement (MVM).

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“We are checking if the group is legitimate,” said Brawner. But a certain Abu Ayla Mawaraw, who claimed to be the group’s spokesperson, said MVM already has more than 1,000 followers ready to strike if their demands were not met
—an immediate end to fighting in Marawi and the return of residents.

“It could just be part of propaganda,” said Brawner, adding that moneyed Marawi families involved in drugs could be behind the new group.

MVM claimed credit for a 14-minute video that spread in social media showing men brandishing high-powered firearms. —EDWIN FERNANDEZ AND JEOFFREY MAITEM

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, biff, Cotabato bombing plot, Gerry Besana, Islamic State, Muslimin Ladtugan, Philippine Army
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