Police and military authorities here are hunting down an Arab chemist and four Indonesian terrorists who were acquaintance of slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias "Marwan," and Filipino bomb-making expert Basit Usman, an Army official said.
Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, also appealed to Maguindanao's local executives to help the authorities locate the foreigners and members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Citing intelligence information, Pangilinan said the four suspected Indonesian terrorists and an Arab man were seen with the BIFF.
He said the Army are searching and closely monitoring them in the SPMS Box, a military term referring to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Salibo complex, areas where the BIFF has strong influence.
On Friday, joint Army, Marines and police operations were conducted against the group of BIFF in Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Friday, which led to the closure of a major road network for about six hours.
“We will continue hunting them, these foreign nationals are creating headaches in Maguindanao, they are with Basit Usman and in the company of BIFF, because the MILF will not coddle these terrorists, I presume,” Pangilindan told reporters after meeting with Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and local executives of the province.
“I also have that information about these foreign men in the company of the BIFF, I hope the civilians will report to authorities their presence in their communities,” Mangudadatu also said.
He appealed to local executives, down to the barangay level and Muslim religious leaders, to help locate lawless BIFF leaders "to save the young Maguindanaons from being lured into radicalism."
“I appeal to our local people, down to the communities, we should help prevent these lawless people, these extremists who are making our lives difficult, please join hands with the authorities to locate these people,” Mangudadatu said.
Both Mangudadatu and Pangilinan said the foreigners had been teaching radical Islam in madrasah (Islamic school)in Maguindanao with young Maguindanaons as recruits.
“We have information that Basit Usman was sighted teaching radicalism in Madrasah and were allowed by local officials," Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said that the well-trained and well-equipped Army troopers were fighting young and ill-trained BIFF fighters aged 10 to 15 years old.
He said the Army pity these children who were lured by extremists into taking up arms and fight the government.
Both the governor and the Army commander lambasted the BIFF for using young warriors and for using civilians as human shields.
The recent Army offensive against the BIFF in Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi Ampatuan left 7,000 families fleeing and the provincial and regional disaster officials are attending to their needs.
Three days ago, the government announced it will launched an all out operation against the BIFF and asked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to pave the way for the military offensive. The MILF obeyed as stated in the government-MILF ceasefire agreement.