50 Moro bandits trapped in Sibugay AFP assault Print
Thursday, 27 October 2011 16:08

The military yesterday said it has trapped 50 “lawless elements” in a strip of marshland in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay used as a center for kidnap operations by a Moro rebel leader.

Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randy Cabangbang said ground, air and naval operations are as of press time 700 meters away from the stronghold of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Waning Abdul-salam.

Abdul-salam has been linked to various crimes including the kidnapping of a priest and 3 teachers in Zamboanga Sibugay.

“We are fighting for every piece of dry land because this is a marsh. There are strips of dry land in that marshy area being used by Waning Abdul-salam. For every meter we gain, we are met by resistance. The area is important to them because all the kidnappings are planned there, all the kidnap victims are brought there. They are sowing terror in Zamboanga Sibugay because they are occupying that land,” Cabangbang told Mornings@ANC.

He said latest reports from the field said there are more than 50 of Abdul-Salam’s men trapped in the stronghold. He said the military is still verifying reports that some of Abdul-salam’s sub-leaders are in the area.

The military spokesman said soldiers gained ground after much hardship and the deaths of 2 soldiers. He described the terrain as “impossible”, noting that soldiers had to walk single file in one area because there was no dry ground.

He said the military is preparing a list of MILF fighters facing murder and multiple charges. He said the list will be submitted GPH–MILF coordinating committees on the cessation of hostilities for the possible surrender of the men.

He said: “The Philippine National Police should be allowed to enter areas to serve warrants if they are not surrendered.”

Cabangbang said military operations in the area has not been halted despite an existing cease-fire with the MILF. “Our joint action group is already there including cease-fire committee to ensure that we can enter these areas,” he said.

He said a curfew has been imposed in Payao, Alicia and Talusan towns to ensure that the lawless elements do not infiltrate these areas at night. — ABS-CBN