7 evacuees volunteer to identify bandit leaders behind attacks in Maguindanao PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 August 2012 14:26

Seven evacuees have volunteered to help the police identify and prosecute the leaders of the bandits that attacked five Maguindanao towns, plundered villages and burned down houses in recent attacks that dislocated more than 25, 000 people.

The provincial information office of Maguindanao, in an emailed statement, said Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu is expecting more evacuees to come out soon to testify against the commanders that led the attacks, perpetrated during the Ramadan, which is touted as a “holy month” in Islam, where warfare is forbidden.

Mangudadatu’s chief information assistant, France Milla, said the governor is even ready to shell out a “reward” in exchange for any information that would point to the exact whereabouts of all members of the central leadership core of the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, which repeatedly claimed responsibility for the attacks over Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City.

Milla said the governor has also dismissed as ‘pure intrigue” an August 11 published report insinuating he was funding the BIFM for political purposes.
“That was so untrue, unfounded and trumped up because it was something unverified and unfounded,” Milla said.

The governor’s office, for security reasons, declined to name the seven evacuees, all ethnic Maguindanaons, who signified readiness to testify against the BIFM leadership.

Police Director Manuel Barcena, in-charge of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in South and Western Mindanao, announced over  the weekend that a group of selected investigators, members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and intelligence officials are now documenting the BIFM-initiated atrocities in preparation for the filing of criminal cases against the leaders of the group, including its founder the radical cleric Ameril Umra Kato and his spokesman, Abu Misry Mama.

Col. Prudencio Asto, public affairs chief of the 6th Infantry Division, said the 6th ID is to help secure the seven prospective witnesses, who are from villages bandits looted and burned down in a spate of incursions that started midnight of August 5 and lasted until August 11.

Talks have been circulating since Friday purporting that the ailing Kato, a Saudi-trained Islamic missionary, have been relocated by his followers somewhere in a hinterland near the boundary of South Upi, Maguindanao and Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat.

Half of Kato’s body was paralyzed after he suffered a hypertensive stroke in October 2011 following a long walk from one hideout to another at Mount Firis, a Teduray tribal domain surrounded by the Maguindanao’s adjoining South Upi, Datu Saudi and Guindulungan towns.

Combined members of the Army’s 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, the 5th Special Forces Battalion, the 33rd Infantry Battalion, and a local contingent of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit found noontime Sunday a wheel chair, anti-hypertension drugs, and an electronic massaging device inside Kato’s abandoned overhead bunker on a hilltop in Barangay Katimin in Datu Unsay.

Pursuing soldiers also found materials for fabrication of bombs, including highly-combustible black powder, and ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that, if mixed with high-octane fuel, can be used as blasting agent for improvised explosive devices, in another bunker at an abandoned BIFM enclave in Barangay Limpongo in Datu Hoffer, also in Maguindanao.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the BIFM, announced over Catholic station dxMS they are not bothered by the Army’s takeover of all of their enclaves.
“Our men can easily move around, transfer from area to another, roam anywhere and fight a guerrilla war. It would even be harder for the military and police now to find us,” Mama said, as he warned of retaliation for the capture for their strongholds.

Mama also refuted over dxMS circulating stories about politicians funding their group and coddling their sick leader.

“That is not true. We’re operating independently and were not receiving any support from any politician. It’s from Allah that we get strength and courage to wage this war. We put up our resources through our own initiative,” Mama said. — Felix Ostrea