5 BIFF men arrested in Maguindanao

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Sultan Kudarat, Philippines  — Government forces raided a marshland village in Maguindanao at dawn Friday, arresting five members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and seizing three firearms from them.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, said joint military and police elements, backed by armored personnel carriers, carried out the 4 a.m. raid in neighboring Barangay Tual, Datu Paglat, Maguindanao, to arrest Sindatok Dilna, a sub-leader of the BIFF faction under Commander Gani Saligan.

Troops from the police’s Special Action Force and Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion, reinforced by armored vehicles and artillery weaponry from the 7th Field Artillery Battalion, swooped down on the village of Tual and caught five suspects by surprise.

Dilna, the principal target of the operation, was not among the arrested suspects.

“They (suspects) did not resist arrest upon seeing that they were overwhelmed by our forces,” Cabunoc said, noting that village officials witnessed the law enforcement operation.

Recovered from Dilna’s safehouse were one M16 rifle and two .45-caliber pistols. The suspects were brought to 33rd IB headquarters for further questioning.

Cabunoc said the secluded sections of the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh at the border of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat have become hiding places for terrorists and political armed groups.

“We have been alerted by the intrusion of alleged members of ISIS-inspired jihadists who mixed with the local population, especially with the political armed groups in the area,” he said.

“We will not allow them to dominate a particular terrain in my area of operation in order to protect the gains of our past security operations here,” he added.

Cabunoc said the Army is working closely with local authorities in convincing people to hand over loose firearms in support of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to collect illegal weapons that proliferate in Mindanao.– Noel Punzalan and Edwin Fernandez/PNA

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