15 newly-dug graves found in Sibugay as Moro outlaws flee PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 29 October 2011 16:27

Government forces that overran a rebel-outlaw stronghold in Zamboanga Sibugay have found 15 freshly dug graves and are now clearing the area of unexploded landmines planted by the outlaws before they fled during a wave of bombing runs by Philippine Air Force planes, a military spokesman said.

Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said in a press briefing in Camp Crame Thursday afternoon that wanted notorious outlaw leader Waning Abdulsalam’s heavily fortified hideout in Sitio Talaib in the town of Payao had been captured after two days of gunbattle and pounding by OV-10 light bombers of the PAF.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo B. Ferrer, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), visited the area to supervise the ongoing military operation, together with Vice Admiral Armando Guzman, commander of the Naval Force Western Command (NFWeM), and Chief Elpidio de Asis of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for
Region 9.

It was believed the fleeing outlaws suffered heavy casualties as shown by the blood found scattered in the area.

“I have just visited the area in Sitio Talaib, Barangay Labatan, Payao where we had been conducting joint operations with the PNP for the past days,” Ferrer said in a text message to Manila-based reporters.

“We have occupied Waning Abdulsalam’s fortified structures and our focus right now is clearing the area of unexploded mines,” he added.

“We could not move freely since our EOD (explosive ordinance demolition) team has to mark first the safe areas where we can pass through,” the area said.

Ferrer also said that the troops are also searching the mangrove nearby where it was reported that the rebel-outlaws “hastily dumped their firearms” as they fled in fear when Air Force men launched a series of airstrikes along with artillery bombardment by the Philippine Army.

“Efforts are also exerted to locate the wounded criminals who may have slipped the cordon during the night,” Ferrer said.

According to Ferrer, the troops noticed 15 freshly dug graves in the cemetery of a nearby fishing village, hinting that these were the bodies of the outlaws who were killed during the combined military-police assault on the enemy’s lair.

“I gave instructions to our soldiers not to disturb the graves anymore,” Ferrer said in his text message.

Ferrer pointed out that “the fishing village is actually the south side strongpoint of the criminals” where there is a small mosque in the area.

“Blood is everywhere. I guess this is where they brought their wounded and dying comrades,” he said, adding that “gun emplacements were found at the northern part of Sitio Talaib.”

The soldiers recovered one .50 caliber machine gun, although there were two machine gun nests fortified with logs and sand, he said.
The outlaws were also armed with two .50 caliber machine guns during the firefight, Ferrer said.

Ferrer said the outlaw’s hideout “is laden with mines that you have to admire the ground troops for their steadfast determination to regain the territory from the lawless group.”

“The safe haven of kidnapping operations and terrorist activities in Zamboanga Sibugasy has fallen,” Ferrer announced following the capture of the outlaws’ stronghold.

“We have reestablished our authority in this part of Payao and we owe it to the joint forces, our army, air force, navy and police who fought long and hard,” Ferrer said.

Government troops launched hot pursuit operations against lawless elements in Mindanao following the ambush-killing of 19 Army Special Forces in Al-Barka, Basilan last October 18. Fourteen other soldiers were wounded during the attack by combined forces of renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and armed bandits in the area.

Two more soldiers and four others were wounded when a bandit group attacked them in Lanao del Norte.
President Benigno S. Aquino III has rejected calls for an all-out war against the MILF but vowed all-out justice for the slain soldiers with the military launching hot pursuit operations against the perpetrators of the recent attacks.