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Bomb factory captured in Mamasapano – military

Carmela Fonbuena

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Bomb factory captured in Mamasapano – military
(Updated) A certain BIFF leader Mohammad Tambako, the owner of the encampment where bomb materials were discovered, is one of Basit Usman's protectors

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – The military said it captured a factory of improvised explosives operated by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, in the continuing all out offensive against the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Bomb components – such as mortar fuses, ammonium nitrate, blasting caps, and tie wires – were reportedly discovered in an encampment in Barangay Dasikil, located near the site of deadly clashes that killed on January 25 Jemaah Islamiyah top terrorist Zulkifli bin hir or “Marwan” but also 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

“Our troops successfully seized a bomb-making facility after assaulting the enemy positions. The enemy was able to escape, but the equipment and materials that are used to fabricate home-made bombs were left behind,” Colonel Melquiades Feliciano, commander of the Army 601st Infantry Brigade that is leading the military offensive, said on Monday, March 2.

The encampment has a total area of three hectares with 18 houses that used to be occupied by the rebels, said Army 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Jo-ann Petinglay.

Marwan is an expert bombmaker who trained terrorists in Mindanao. In the wake of his death, calls were made to hunt down his trainees as well. 

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara is among those raising the alarm. “Because Marwan, after being driven out of Malaysia, sought refuge in camps run by the alphabet soup of rebel groups in Mindanao, then we have to assume that he trained many people. The graduates of his workshops must not be allowed to put what they learned from him to use,” Angara said.

Maguindanao has suffered a spate of bombings in the past decade. On Monday, March 2, Petinglay said the military successfully diffused an improvised explosive discovered in nearby barangay Kabingi of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

Aquino’s promise 

The military has intensified offensives against the BIFF following President Benigno Aquino III’s promise in a televised address that the government will hunt down BIFF bombmaker Basit Usman. 

The military said a certain BIFF leader Mohammad Tambako, the owner of the encampment where bomb materials were discovered, is one of Usman’s protectors. BIFF leader Kagi Karialan, who has at least 100 men with him, is the other. 

“Several tipsters have spotted Usman in the bailiwicks of these cohorts,” the military said. 

Both Tambako and Karialan are blamed for violent attacks in Maguindanao and nearby provinces that have displaces tens of thousands.

As of latest count, at least 5,700 families or nearly 30,000 individuals have been displaced by the fighting. The military claims 9 BIFF members were killed in the continuing offensive in Maguindanao alone, while 3 soldiers were wounded.

Usman was the target secondary to Marwan in the January 25 operations. He was wounded but was able to escape, according to the military. 

It was Usman who coddled Marwan in Mamasapano, an area believed to be controlled by the MILF but where their former comrades who set up BIFF also reside. The BIFF is composed mostly of former MILF members who oppose the peace process. (READ: MILF: We didn’t coddle Marwan, Usman)

The MILF is cooperating with the military in the offensive against their former comrades, many of them also relatives.

5 more international terrorists?

Usman is now believed to be in the run along with at least 5 foreign nationals believed to be members of international terrorist groups.

They are coddled by “small bands of notorious bandits from two different BIFF groups” in the remote villages of Shariff Saydona and Mamasapano towns, according to Armed Forces public affairs officer Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc.

“Five foreign nationals, who are believed to be members of an international terrorist organization, were seen moving with Usman as they evaded their pursuers,” Cabunoc said. 

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