Two killed in Lanao Norte encounter with government forces and Maute group

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ILIGAN CITY (October 2) -Two were killed in the latest encounter with the government forces and the members of the Dawlah Islamiya/Maute Group, the morning of September 30, at Barangay Upper Dimayon in Tagoloan, Lanao del Norte.

One of the fatalities was a soldier of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army identified as Staff Sergeant Edgar Lumantas while the other one was Hadji Rasol Mambuay, alias Commander Mercury, a remnant of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group.

LtCol. Bernard Taqueban, commanding officer of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said they were in a joint law enforcement operation with the National Bureau of Investigation and the local police against Mercury and his cohort identified as Dinalan Dimnatang Ibrahim Imam alias Papayungan, when the firefight, that lasted for ten minutes, ensued.

Lumantas succumbed to a lone gunshot wound on his right eye from Mercury’s firearm.

“Nung papasukin na sana nila (ang bahay kung saan nagtatago si Mercury), ayaw lumabas. Pagsipa (ni Lumantas) sa pinto nagkabulagaan na. Just so happened na ang posisyon ni SSgt. Lumantas was directly sa kanya (Mercury), sila ang nagharap. Kaya nung nabaril siya (Lumantas), nakaganti siya ng baril kay Mercury kaya tinamaan din at napatay si Mercury,” Taqueban said in an interview.

Taqueban, citing reports from their intelligence unit said Mercury was formerly a sub-commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but did not make it clear on what group he belongs.

When Mercury joined the Dawlah Islamiya’s attack in Marawi City last year, he was disowned by the MILF leadership, according to the Army official.

He was included in the Martial Law’s arrest order issued at the start of the implementation of ML in Mindanao. “When he joined the siege in Marawi City last year with the Maute, tinanggal siya sa liderato ng MILF,” Taqueban said.

Mercury was known to be an expert in making an improvised explosive device (IED). “Bomb maker siya. Makikita kahapon dahil as pinangyarihan, nandun ang sign, indicators na ginagamit sa paggawa ng bomba,” Taqueban added.

Mercury was able to escape from the former battle ground in Marawi City and hide in the nearby place.

Papayungan, on the other hand, was a resident of Tagoloan and known for his kidnap-for-ransom activities.  He has standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping cases.

The military believed Papayungan cuddled Mercury in his place in Tagoloan for a long time.   “We implemented the operation because the report from the community was persistent and positive that the two were hiding there. They were sharing their resources and waiting for the right time na makapaghasik ng lagim,” Taqueban said.

Lumantas was the detachment commander in Upper Dimayon when the operation was implemented.  “He volunteered to lead the operation because he said he knew the area. He was still alive when he was brought to a hospital in Iligan City but was declared dead upon arrival,” Taqueban said.

During the Marawi siege, Lumantas was part of the Task Group Bakal and was assigned as the driver of the team that resupply troops inside the main battle area ammunitions, firearms, and other supply needed.

A native of Oroquieta City in Misamis Occidental, he got married to Roxille, a resident of Barangay Villa Verde in Iligan City.   The day before he was killed in the operation, September 29, Lumantas went home in Iligan City to join the fiesta procession with her and their child.

He went back to the detachment in the afternoon.

Roxille said it was hard for her to accept her husband was gone. “I can’t believe it was the last time I could see him alive. He is a very good husband. Even if I yell at him when I get mad, he just smiles,” Roxille said. –Divina Suson/ NewsLine

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