Troops sent to Lanao town due to rumors of impending rebel attack
Lacson Lantud, vice mayor of the town of Pantao Ragat, told the Inquirer by phone Friday that local authorities had received “reports of an impending attack” by some 700 armed followers of Commander Bravo, a field commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
However, no such attack had taken place by Saturday morning.
Bravo, whose real name is Abdullah Macapaar, was the same senior MILF commander who led attacks in the two Lanao provinces in 2008 following the scuttling of the so-called Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the MILF after the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.
Lantud said that according to the “reports,” Bravo was “planning to raid” the municipality to rescue a comrade who was captured following the abduction of a teacher and her husband three days ago.
“The armed men are just two kilometers away from the town proper now,” Lantud said, adding that fierce fighting could occur anytime.
On June 18, Bravo’s men seized public school teacher Aslaime Pangader and her husband Nait as they were heading home to Pantao Ragat on a motorcycle. The authorities considered it a crime and went after the abductors, capturing one Majid Abuat.
But as far as Commander Bravo was concerned, according to Lantud, the seizure of the Pangader couple was an “arrest” by the MILF because they owed someone in another town some money that needed to be paid back.
“Arresting them was illegal,” Lantud said. “The MILF has no authority to do that. What they did was a form of kidnapping.”
He said prior to the massing of Bravo’s men, the MILF leader demanded Abuat’s release but this was denied.
“Upon further investigation, the police discovered that Abuat has long standing warrants for his arrest for murder,” Lantud said.
He said Abuat has been turned over to the Lanao del Norte provincial jail.
Lantud called on the MILF leadership to intervene to prevent violence from breaking out.
He said the authorities were determined to defend civilians from the planned attack by Bravo’s men.
Efforts by the Inquirer to reach senior MILF leaders, including peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, were unsuccessful.
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