Officials: 4 of 13 bandits killed in Maguindanao were bomb makers

John Unson ( - March 30, 2015 - 3:05am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Four of the 13 bandits killed by soldiers in separate encounters in Maguindanao on Sunday were bomb experts trained by slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, local officials and barangay leaders said Monday.

Three commanders of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Yusof Abesalih, also known as “Bisaya,” and siblings Norodin and Salahudin Indong, were among the 13 gunmen soldiers shot dead in firefights Friday afternoon in secluded areas in the adjoining Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay towns in the second district of Maguindanao.

Barangay folks, among them Moro farmers, said bandits named Jacaria, Mungkas, Bidory and Aliman, whom Marwan trained in fabrication of roadside bombs from October until December last year, were also killed in the encounters.

Marwan was killed by police commandos in a dawn raid on January 25 at his hideout in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Local sources said Bidory and Aliman were among the bombers that perpetrated the deadly Dec. 31, 2014 bombing of the public market in Mlang town in northwest of North Cotabato.

Four soldiers were killed while six others were wounded in Sunday's BIFF-military gunfights.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they have indeed been receiving persistent feedback from local officials and barangay leaders that some of the 13 BIFF gunmen killed by Scout Rangers and combatants of the 34th Infantry Battalion had studied how to assemble explosives that can be detonated from a distance using mobile phones.

"That is what we have been hearing from informants," Petinglay said.

Members of the municipal peace and order councils in Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay said Bisaya, feared for his brutality in dealing with Moro villagers that refuse to shell out “revolutionary tax,” was killed in one of the five BIFF-military encounters last Sunday.

“Also killed where Norodin and Salahudin, who are both brothers of BIFF Commander Karialan Indong,” a municipal councilor, who asked not to be identified, said.

Karialan was among a group of radical jihadists that helped Saudi-trained preacher Imam Ameril Ombra Kato establish the BIFF in late 2010. 

Relatives of Bisaya said his remains were buried in an unmarked grave somewhere at the swampy tri-boundary of Datu Unsay, Salibo and Datu Saudi towns.

Barangay officials in the three municipalities are worried of possible retaliations by the BIFF for its heavy losses in Sunday’s hostilities.

“Lumabas sila sa kanilang pinagtataguan noong linggo ng hapon nang nalaman nilang titigil muna ang mga sundalo sa pagtugis sa kanila para makapag-sagawa ng graduation sa mga paaralan sa paligid,” said a barangay chair, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.

Sunday’s BIFF-military encounters erupted when bandits fired at soldiers who were sent to verify the reported sightings of gunmen converging at strategic spots in Barangays Kitango, Malangog and Pamalian in Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay and Sharif Saidona towns, respectively, as if preparing to mount simultaneous attacks.

The skirmishes spread to other areas when another group of bandits ambushed an Army ambulance carrying wounded soldiers in Barangay Elian in Datu Saudi, while en route to the Army's Camp Siongco Hospital in Awang District in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

Reports reaching the office in Cotabato City of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao stated that the latest firefights in Maguindanao towns where the BIFF and the military are locked in a face-off since March 1 had caused widespread panic among villagers.

Close to 130,000 villagers in eleven Maguindanao towns have been dislocated by encounters in the past four weeks between bandits and pursuing Army and Marine units. 

The evacuees are now cramped in squalid evacuation centers, surviving on food and water rations from the ARMM's inter-agency Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team.

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