PHL flag replaces ISIS flag in captured camp PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 December 2015 11:30

The Philippine flag has been hoisted, replacing the ISIS flag, in the 50-hectare camp of a new radical  group that was overrun by Marines after a bloody firefight that left eight gunmen dead in the Muslim south last week.

Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of the 1st Marine Brigade based in Kalamansig town, Sultan Kudarat province, told reporters that soldiers of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing Team and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Sultan Kudarat took over the camp of Ansar al-Khalifa, an ISIS -inspired group, after killing seven gunmen, including a young recruit and an Indonesian expert bomb maker.

Salamat said the gunbattle came after a week-long manhunt and pursuit operations against Mohammad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid also known as Commander Tokboy, the group leader, in the village of Butril, Palimbang town, Sultan Kudarat.

Salamat said Commander Tokboy remains at large and believed to be hiding in the jungles of Palimbang and Maitum towns, both coastal towns in Sultan Kudarat.

”In due time we will get him and his men,” Salamat. “We continue our relentless campaign,” Salamat was quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) as saying.

Philippine Marines and men of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) travelled to Butril village on November 26 to serve arrest warrants on Commander Tokboy for various crimes, including a bomb attack in General Santos City. The soldiers were approaching the village, when some 40 gunmen opened fire on them around 5:30 a.m., sparking a four-hour firefight. When firing stopped, the bodies of eight men were found scattered in the camp including that of Indonesian bomber Ibrahim Ali, alias Hudzaifa, a senior member of the Mujahideen Indonesian Timur (MIT),  who Philippine authorities describe as a follower of Julkifli bin Hir, a.k.a. Marwan, one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted militants who was killed in a clash that left 44 Philippine police commandos dead in January. He was believed to be training local militants on bomb making in Palimbang mountains.

Commander Tokboy was not among the fatalities. He was believed to have fled at the height of the fire fight.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, told reporters after the fall of the camp that the Ibrahim Ali was first arrested in Zamboanga City for illegal possession of firearms in 2005 but was released from detention in 2013 due to the weakness of the case filed against him.

Pangilinan said Ibrahim Ali had since been monitored to be with Commander Tokboy after his release, teaching bomb making.

The spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Central said the “Ansarul Khilafa Philippines” has been recruiting students in the central part of Mindanao island.

“We learned of their ongoing recruitment after the encounter,” GMA News quoted Capt. Joan Petinglay as saying.

She added that alongside Daesh flags, several student IDs had been found in the camp.

“From here, we will formulate plans together with the local government units and the community as well as parents here [central Mindanao],” she said. “Then we will be able to stop the recruitment.”

The name that stuck out most among the IDs was that of Datu Mongkang “Mongs” Dilangalen, the 22-year-old nephew of former Maguindanao House Representative Didagen “Digs” Dilangalen whose family identified the youth’s body as among the dead.

His cousin, Bai Princess Dilangalen Piang Abdulrakman, told GMA News that Mongs had told his parents in June that he was leaving for General Santos City in South Cotabato province.

She added that he returned home in August and spoke with his mother by phone a day before the clash.

Petinglay said Sunday that authorities have yet to determine whether Ansarul Khilafa Philippines led by Commander Tokboy is linked to Daesh.

Professor Rommel Banlaoi, a security analyst, told radio dzBB on Saturday that the group is connected with the Malay Archipelago Unit for the Islamic State, a regional unit believed to carry out recruitment activities for Daesh.

Pangilinan said Commander Tokboy has four standing warrants of arrest and was involved in a series of atrocities and violence in the South Cotabato area  since August 2008.

He was previously apprehended in 2009 by the security forces at Maasim, Sarangani Province. However, he managed to escape from Bulantay Jail, Alabel,  Sarangani after seven months of imprisonment.

He had been a fugitive for half a decade and was engaged in various crimes that included cattle rustling, extortion, highway robbery and murders.

Salamat said about 250 families have fled the village of Butril but the local governments and the Philippines Marines are attending to their needs.

Both Pangilinan and Salamat maintained that government forces are still seeking additional pieces of evidence that would directly link the lawless armed  group to ISIS.

“Except from ISIS flags, no other concrete proof the group was indeed legitimate member of ISIS,” Pangilinan said.

He surmised the ISIS flags could be used by the group to show sympathy to the international terrorist group.

ISIS flags were also found in Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camps captured by the 6th Infantry Division operating troops in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Unsay in Maguindanao early this year. The same flags were found in areas where Maguindanao bomber Basit Usman used to stay in the Liguasan marshland.

Usman was killed by combined government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces in Maguindanao in May.