Moro rebel camp, bomb factory fall
DAVAO CITY—Government forces captured a camp reportedly occupied by Moro rebels, and a bomb factory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, a military official said.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers on a clearing operation in Barangay Dasikil on Sunday discovered the camp inside a 3-hectare complex with 18 huts.
The place was reportedly occupied by followers of Mohammad Ali Tambako, former vice chair for political affairs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement. Calling his group the United Justice Movement, Tambako is providing support to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and terror groups, the military claimed.
“Assorted war materiel were recovered from the encampment,” Petinglay said. These included components for making “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) or homemade bombs, which, she said, “clearly connote that the group is involved in IED making, training and manufacturing.”
The officer said the discovery “manifests that the armed lawless group, who calls themselves BIFF, and the group of Tambako are coddling terrorists and are involved in terroristic activities.”
“This only supports earlier reports that there are foreign terrorists hiding and living with the BIFF leaders and members, and who are providing them training on IED making,” Petinglay said.
“The need to go after this group is of utmost priority not only for the government forces but also for other stakeholders and the community in order to finally put a stop to their terroristic acts,” she said.
Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson of the BIFF, denied the accusations, saying his group had already expelled Tambako for excesses in leadership and “dishonoring the due process of law.”
Mama acknowledged that Tambako was once a member of the BIFF Central Committee and was found guilty of ordering the beheading of one of two farmer hostages near a rice field in Midsayap, North Cotabato province, in September 2013. The BIFF claimed that both men died in an encounter.
A military source said Tambako is a foreign-educated rebel leader who took his masters and doctoral studies in Saudi Arabia. “We do not know what his courses were, but he was not able to finish his doctorate,” the source said.
This opportunity to study abroad paved way to build his network on foreign armed groups which offered him seed money for his activities in Mindanao.
The same source said Tambako also irked the leadership of the BIFF after he bypassed the procedures of the rebel group to expand his network in Basilan and Jolo using BIFF rebels.
The move is purportedly aimed at conducting attacks against government and civilian targets which are not sanctioned by the BIFF, Mama said.
“What he did was too much and has disrespected our Islamic principles that is why he was expelled,” the BIFF leader said.
On Saturday night, the reported rebel camp was subjected to artillery fire, Petinglay said. Citing intelligence reports, she said Tambako was “monitored to be there before the artillery offensives.”
“Obviously, they fled overnight Saturday,” she said.
Among those recovered by Army soldiers were 60-mm and 81-mm mortar fuse, bomb making materials and fatigue uniforms with BIFF markings.
On Monday, government forces foiled a bombing attempt by the BIFF in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, after a civilian reported what he believed was an improvised bomb along the highway in Sitio Panang, Barangay Kabingi. With a report from Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao
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