Wanted BIFF leader nabbed in Cotabato hospital, ending 5-year hunt for extremist-cum-drug trader
COTABATO CITY –– Anti-narcotics operatives, backed by police and military forces, arrested Wednesday a leader of Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who is allegedly engaged in the illicit drug trade, authorities said.
Director Juvenal Azurin of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the Bangsamoro said state security forces have been hunting Samad Masgal, a BIFF sub-leader operating in the Cotabato-Maguindanao border, for the past three years.
The manhunt ended at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center here where PDEA and police traced Masgal’s whereabout and served the warrant for his arrest.
Masgal, also known as Commander Madrox, is facing charges for multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and peddling of illegal drugs.
He was seriously injured in a clash with armed men in Midsayap, Cotabato, and confined in the hospital for injuries in his left arm that led to it being amputated.
Azurin said PDEA and other security forces were tipped
about Masgal’s confinement in the hospital.
“It’s over for Masgal,” Azurin declared, adding that the elusive leader was known as one of the key suppliers of illegal drugs in Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces.
Military intelligence officials said Masgal provided funds for IS-linked offensives out of money from his illegal drug trading business.
PDEA, backed by soldiers and police, tried but failed to arrest Masgal during a law enforcement operation in Nabalawag, Midsayap in August 2014.
Two soldiers and a police officer were killed in that operation, and the military was forced to launch air and ground assaults.
Masgal reportedly hid in a community in Bongo Island in Parang, Maguindanao. /lzb
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