Troops, cops raid BIFF lair, nab 5
PRESIDENT QUIRINO, Sultan Kudarat — Soldiers and policemen raided the lair of a suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader in the village of Tual in Paglat, Maguindanao, and arrested five people, a military official said on Saturday.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, said firearms were also seized during Friday’s early morning raid on the lair of Sindatok Dilna, alias “Motolite,” a BIFF leader under Commander Gani Saligan.
Cabunoc said armored vehicles backed soldiers and policemen during the sweep, which took the five suspects by surprise.
The suspects did not resist arrest during the raid witnessed by village officials, said Cabunoc.
“They were overwhelmed by security forces,” he said.
He did not identify the arrested suspects, though, but said they were now being interrogated.
He said among those recovered during the raid were an Armalite rifle and two handguns.
Cabunoc said the raid was conducted following reports that BIFF forces had sought refuge in hinterland or remote areas of Maguindanao amid massive military operations against the renegade rebels, who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), in the province.
Cabunoc said the military was alerted by civilians on the entry of “IS-inspired jihadis who mixed with the local population.”
BIFF members had sought shelter in areas where “political armed groups” also operated, said Cabunoc.
Massive military operations were being conducted in at least five Maguindanao towns, including parts of Shariff Aguak.
On Wednesday, BIFF forces continued to attack government forces by setting off explosives and harassing Army detachments.
Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th Infantry Division (ID) chief, said the military had expected BIFF to launch more attacks to slow the military operations.
At least 13 BIFF gunmen had been killed in the operations and nine others had surrendered since April 9, when the military operations were launched, according to Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th ID.
Encinas said the surrender of the nine BIFF guerrillas was facilitated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Moro rebel group where BIFF members used to belong.
Dela Vega said 20 firearms were also recovered in the operations while two BIFF camps had been captured.
He said soldiers used “all available air assets, artillery, as well as armor assets,” to break down the defenses of the renegade rebels.
More than 2,300 individuals had fled the clashes and were being aided by local government units. —REPORTS FROM EDWIN FERNANDEZ AND JEOFFREY MAITEM
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