Military and police forces foiled another planned bomb attacks, this time centered at urban centers in Sultan Kudarat—following the seizure of improvised explosive and detonating devices at a village in the province early dawn Saturday.
The terrorist plot was the third attempt by terrorists to sow violence in Mindanao ahead of the upcoming plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law after security forces foiled two bomb attacks in two areas in Maguindanao last Wednesday.
The first bomb plot was intended to disrupt the turnover of a school building by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu to education officials in Radja Buayan town.
The explosive devices—three bundles of 81 mm mortar shells concealed in a plastic bag—were discovered by military personnel minutes before they went off during the event.
The second was to replicate the New Year’s Eve explosion at the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City
but failed after army troops from the 40th Infantry Battalion intercepted three unexploded “Anti-Personnel Mines” from two Dawlah Islamiya terrorists shortly after an encounter.
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Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Central, said the mines were supposed to be transported to the heart of Cotabato City or Midsayap town for an attack there.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, said the planned attack was thwarted after military and police elite units launched counter-terrorist operations in a remote village of Pagalad where the bombs were kept.
Cabunoc said the motive of the terrorists to detonate bombs in high-populated centers was attested to by a civilian informant who showed security authorities a photo of two bombers testing the explosive devices.
“Our informant showed us the pictures of terrorist bombers Ustadz Yasser Saligan and his cohort, Sheik Makakena a.k.a. Abu Jihad, as they detonated a bomb to test its lethality,” Cabunoc said.
He revealed they had been tracking down the two bombers since November 2018.
Under cover of darkness, troops of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, 4th Special Action Battalion, Criminal Investigation, and Detection Group-ARMM and Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, swooped down on and raided the terrorist lair at around 3 a.m.
As troops approached their target, five persons who were in the area were arrested and seized from them four improvised bombs and three cal. 45 pistols. The suspects handed over to village officials.
However, the primary objective of the troops—Abu Kihad and Ustadz Yasser—eluded arrest by jumping into the murky waters of Liguasan Marsh.
Pursuit operations were launched against the fleeing high-profile terrorist.
Hours after the discovery of the explosives, the military pressure against terrorists in Mindanao had forced a commander of the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and four of his followers to surrender.
Cabunoc said Commander Mayogantong Bansil, a notorious rebel involved in atrocities against government troops and the civilian population, along with his four members turned themselves over in Makainis Village in General Salipada K Pendatun.
Cabunoc said Mayogantong sent surrender feelers after knowing the presence of security forces in the adjacent town of Paglat 5 kilometers away.
“His relative contacted me by phone to confirm his willingness to lay down his arms. He was afraid that we will launch offensives against his group on the same day,” Cabunoc added.
Bansil and his men surrendered four high-powered firearms including a Cal. 50 Sniper Rifle, two M1 Garand Rifles, and a 40mm M79 Grenade Launcher which were presented to Brigadier General Robert Dauz, the commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, which has operational control over the 33rdInfantry Battalion.
“You have shown the expertise in handling the security threats without incurring casualties. Share these best practices in the conduct of operations to (sic) all Army units in Central Mindanao,” said Dauz.
Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF terrorists had nowehere else to hide.
“We have won the support of the people in Central Mindanao. The people themselves have voluntarily provided information about the hiding places of the terrorists,” said Sobejana.
The 33rd Infantry Battalion has facilitated the surrender of various threat groups both in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat through the employment of combat operations, community engagements, and civil affairs activities.
Since February 2017, the unit has successfully facilitated the surrender of 203 communist rebels and 37 BIFF fighters, setting a benchmark in the conduct of military operations in a ‘two-front war’ against distinct threat groups, Sobejana said.
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