Usman's alleged coddler arrested in GenSan
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Government security forces are confident they will soon catch up with wanted Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman after the arrest Sunday evening, March 15, of a man said to have been coddling him in Maguindanao.
Joint forces of the military and police arrested Ali Mohammad Tambako at around 9 pm on Sunday in General Santos City. He was riding a tricycle going to the seaport in Barangay Calumpang when they served him his warrants of arrest, according to a source in the military who was involved in the manhunt.
He was brought to Manila on Monday, March 16, for inquest. Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr hailed the arrest as a "big accomplishment," citing Tambako's "network of contacts among the notorious Islamic fundamentalists around the world."
Catapang said Tambako was among those who killed the Special Action Force commandos in the bloodiest one-day police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.
He was also tagged as the leader of a group of bandits that attacked in 2013 a Christian community in Midsayap, North Cotabato, and beheaded farmer Ricarte Dionio after.
Four other men, all alleged followers of Tambako, were also arrested. They were identified as Ali Ludisman, Abdusama Badrudin Guiamel, Datukan Kadiwang, and a certain Ibrahim.
Tambako did not resist arrest. He underwent tactical interrogation at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) office in General Santos.
Fragmentation grenades and short firearms were seized during the arrest, the source added. Tambako has outstanding warrants of arrest issued by Cotabato City Regional Trial Court Judge George Jabido for murder and double frustrated murder.
Brigadier General Carlito Galvez, co-chair of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), said the arrest will have a great impact on the ongoing manhunt. In particular, since he serves as the "main security" for Usman, Usman is now "vulnerable," he said.
The military earlier identified Tambako as the person protecting international terrorist Zulkifli bin hir alias "Marwan" and Filipino bombmaker Usman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the group that split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because they did not support the peace agreement with the Philippine government.
Marwan and Usman were the two high-value targets in the bloody January 25 operation of the police Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The SAF killed Marwan but Usman was able to escape. The operation called "Oplan Exodus" is the bloodiest one-day security operation in Philippine police history, killing 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF members, and 5 civilians.
President Benigno Aquino III promised the arrest of Usman as the nation mourned the carnage of the SAF commandos. An all-out offensive against the BIFF was immediately launched as the government tried to save the peace process.
The military later announced that Tambako formed a new breakaway group, the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), that is specifically coddling Usman and 5 foreign terrorists who are supposedly teaching bombmaking to Filipinos.
The group – Tambako, Usman, and the foreign terrorists – have since been the focus of military operations that has so far displaced 80,000 residents. (READ: Military carries out aistrikes anew on BIFF rebels)
They were believed to be moving together around the so-called SPMS box. On Friday, March 13, the military said 3 of Usman's relatives were killed in a series of encounters with the BIFF.
The arrest of Tambako in General Santos means they're no longer moving together. "Ibig sabihin nagkahiwahiwalay sila," said the source. (It means they split up) – with reports from Jeoffrey Maitem / Rappler.com