Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trooper wounded in NPA attack in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Trooper wounded in NPA attack in Albay

A soldier was wounded after around five New People's Army (NPA) fighters fired on his detachment in Daraga, Albay Friday morning.

2nd Infantry Battalion commander Col. Perfecto Pe├▒aredondo, said the NPAs positioned themselves about 300 meters from the detachment before opening fire at 6:35 a.m.

"Sporadic enemy gunfire lasted about one minute that resulted to one of our soldiers slightly wounded," he said.

The wounded trooper, identified as Sgt. Lorenzo Hernan, given first aid before brought to Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital for further treatment.

Pursuit operations are now ongoing.

Pe├▒aredondo said the attacked detachment is a newly established camp of the 22nd Infantry Battalion.

They just moved in to Barangay San Ramon, Daraga, Albay last Feb. 12.

Coast Guard plans to acquire 92-meter MRRVs

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Coast Guard plans to acquire 92-meter MRRVs

Plans are underway for the acquisition of a 92-meter multirole response vessels (MRRVs) for the Philippine Coast Guard.

This was disclosed by PCG commander Rear Admiral William Melad in an interview after his visit to the "People Power Experiential Museum" Thursday at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Negotiations between the Department of Transportation and Communications and Japan International Cooperation are now ongoing for this project, he said.

The proposed vessels are patterned after existing 92-meter ships already in the inventory of the Japan Coast Guard.

Melad said having 92-meter MRRVs in the PCG is part of their strategic development plan which seeks to acquire 80-meter to 125-meters ships.

Bigger ships mean an increase in the patrol, loiter and carrying capacity of the vessels aside from having sufficient room for modernization and upgrades.

At present, the biggest and sophisticated PCG craft are the four Tenix-made EDSA-DOS class which is around 56-meters long and features a helipad and decompression chamber.

These ships were commissioned between 2001 to 2005.

2015 a 'difficult' year for Mindanao peace process –monitoring team

From GMA News (Feb 25): 2015 a 'difficult' year for Mindanao peace process –monitoring team

The past year had been a "difficult" year in terms of the implementation of the agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), according to the Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) in its latest report.

"It hardly needs to be said that this past year has been a difficult one," TPMT chair Alistair MacDonald said in his opening remarks during the launch of the third TPMT Public Report on Friday.

The TPMT is mandated under the law to report on the progress of the implementation of agreements signed between both the government and the MILF.

To recall, 2015 started with news of an incident between police commandos and the MILF in late January, considered to be a "misencounter" by many.

More than 60 people -- including 44 police commandos -- were killed on January 25 when the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) and the MILF clashed in a known MILF territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

"(T)he tragic events at Mamasapano cast a dark shadow over the peace process throughout the year, impacted negatively on public and political attitudes towards the process, and significantly delayed (and coloured) Congressional deliberations on the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law)," MacDonald said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon last month noted that the BBL, which embodies the peace agreement between both the government and the MILF, could well be the last casualty of the Mamasapano incident.

"Let's put the record straight. We were on the way to the approval of the BBL. The committee hearings were going smooth until the Mamasapano incident took place," he said in a television interview.

The Congress adjourned its session on February 5 to give way to the campaign period and will resume on May 23, after the national and local elections slated on May 9.

"In that climate, this Congress was not able to complete its work on the BBL, so the torch of peace will have to be taken up by the next administration and Congress, from July," MacDonald said.

He noted, however, that even if there had been more progress made in Congress, the substitute bills presented by the both the House and Senate committees were non-compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

"This is an issue which will need to be taken up in the next Congress," he said.
Despite this, MacDonald said there has been "significant progress" in 2015.

"Discussions in Congress, even if not completed during this administration, allowed all stakeholders to have their say, ventilated all the issues, and can provide a solid foundation on which the next Congress can build," he said.

The MILF also began to turn over high-powered firearms to an independent body June last year.

"The first, ceremonial, stafe of decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces on June 16 underlined the MILF's determination to fully comply with its commitments under the CAB," MacDonald said.

The past year also saw the normalization of former combatants and their communities, ceasefire mechanisms, and the "significant upwelling" of domestic and international support for the peace process.

"In this difficult context, it was encouraging that both parties remained fully engaged with the process, and fully committed to building the sustained in peace foressen in the CAB," MacDonald said.

With the country's impending change in administration, the TPMT said it is essential to build a path forward or a "Plan B" so the next batch of leaders could hit the ground running.

"No administration can afford to ignore the costs of conflict in Mindanao -- not the human costs of conflict, the costs of decelopment delayed or foregone, the budgetary and security costs of conflict, not the risk of worsening a climate conductive to the spread of violent extremism," MacDonald said.

US troops training SAF men on tactical combat care, life-saving support – PNP

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 25): US troops training SAF men on tactical combat care, life-saving support – PNP

US troops have started training members of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) here under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), ranking police officials said.

However, the six-month training – dubbed Special Action Force Commando Course (SAFCC) – has no counter-terrorism component but is only meant to transfer skills to SAF members on tactical combat care or life-saving support, according to Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio Jr., the director of the Western Mindanao Police Office.

Antonio said the training has been going on inside the Zamboanga Ecozone and Freeport Authority in Barangay San Ramon.
“They are here as consultants. They will provide inputs as trainers for life-saving (skills),” he said.

Supt. Reynald Arino, commander of the 5th SAF Battalion, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that over 100 policemen have been undergoing the tactical combat care training, which he described as “a required foundation course for all SAF members.”

Arino’s unit lost a big number of forces during the bloody clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015.

Arino described the training as “rigid” and “equivalent to military courses.”

“It’s a rigid training (aimed at developing) individual skills, team capability enhancement and mission profile, where potential SAF candidates will be subjected to a test mission before they graduate,” he said.

Arino said the participants would acquire skills in tactical combat care and not in counter-terrorism.

“Maybe in some other courses in the future, but right now, it’s a commando course and the Americans are here to help us, facilitate training in medical courses or how to save our comrades in the battlefield,” he said, adding that most of the participants came from various Mindanao areas.

Similar courses, he said, have been going on in the Visayas and Luzon.

Upon completing the six-month course, the participants have the option to be part of the SAF or return to their respective units as trainers, according to Arino.

Lumads to Task Force Davao chief: “We will set ourselves on fire to gain money?”

From MindaNews (Feb 25): Lumads to Task Force Davao chief: “We will set ourselves on fire to gain money?”
A Lumad leader took to task the commander of Task Force Davao for claiming the February 24 dawn fire at the UCCP Haran compound that injured at least five persons, including a two-year old boy, was “orchestrated” by the Lumads to gain sympathy and donations.

“Sunugon namo ang among kaugalingon para magka-kwart mi?” (We will set ourselves on fire to gain money?), Kerlan Fenagel, chair of the Pasaka Lumad Regional Confederation-Southern Mindanao Region asked in a press conference Thursday at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines’ (UCCP).

He said the statement of Task Force Davao (TFD) commander, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza is is an insult to them and the rest of the Filipino people.

MOTHER'S CARE. Tata Manayab breastfeeds her 2-year old son Demon while waiting for medical attention inside a makeshift clinic at UCCP Haran compound, Padre Selga Street, Davao City on February 24, 2016. Demon suffered burns in his hands and face after unidentified men torched their camp where they are seeking refuge. MindaNews photo bOZANO yTOTO

Tata Manayab breastfeeds her 2-year old son Demon while waiting for medical attention inside a makeshift clinic at UCCP Haran compound, Padre Selga Street, Davao City on February 24, 2016. Demon suffered burns in his hands and face after unidentified men torched their camp where they are seeking refuge. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO [/caption]

At the AFP-PNP press conference at the TFD headquarters on Wednesday, TFD commander, Col. Cristobal Zaragoza said the fire in Haran could have been a move to gain attention to receive more donations.

“It can be them or it can be somebody else (behind the fire incident). The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will not go that far. We are protecting the people,” he said.

Initial investigation by San Pedro Police Station said five unidentified men burned the temporary shelter located near Gate 2 of the evacuation center. The Bureau of Fire Protection has yet to release its findings.

Brig. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) deputy commander said the military is open for investigation on the Haran fire incident.

“Anong makukuha namin? Bakit sila mag-finger point agad? (What can we get? Why are they pointing their fingers at us?),” he asked.

But Crestoni Latiban Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka-SMR, countered by saying they don’t have anyone in mind to blame for the fire other than the military and the paramilitary groups that they allegedly armed. He alleged it was a planned attack perpetrated by the AFP, an allegation the military denied.

Monzon said they recovered materials such as stick, gallon, and green and black colored Nike bag that contained the 1.5 empty liter allegedly containing the diesel used to burn the makeshift shelter and two dormitories.

The gallon was found near Gate 2 where the fire broke out while the bag that contained the empty bottle was discovered within the compound by morning.

The first incident took place at the five-room evacuation shelter at 2:30 a.m. and injured five Lumads — Magno Kulot, 14, Odessa Dumol, 12 and mother Elondia Dumol, 45, Loloy Manayab, 30, and son Demon, 2, all from Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The shelter immediately caught fire as it is made of light materials.

The victims were brought to Southern Philippines Medical Center at 3 a.m. but they said they were not attended to until they left at 8 a.m.

“Naa mi mga medical practitioners diri karon nga naga-atiman sa ilaha (We have medical practioners here in Haran who are attending to them),” he said.

About 10 minutes after the fire was put out, Monzon recalled hearing an explosion and another fire ensued.

“Naay nag-ingon sa amo usa ka tricycle driver nga naa na pud daw nasunog (The tricycle driver shouted that there was another fire),” he added.

Electricity also tripped as the electric meter was deliberately removed from its post using a metal rod.

For the second incident, Monzon said the suspects likely found their way to the compound through a path that exits near Brokenshire Hospital, as they noticed that some strips of barbed wire fence were cut.

The dormitories — Walter Tong and Gregorio Gonzales — were about a meter apart where female and male borders, who are students and workers of the center, were housed.

Giovannie Mongado, a third year Bachelor in Physical Education Student of Brokenshire College of Davao, said they heard an explosion that was loud enough to rouse them from sleep.

He said they immediately got out of their room and rushed to the nearby Upper Gonzales dormitory to save the female boarders who were still inside their room.

He said all their belongings were lost to fire.

Grace Avila, Haran Evacuation Center manager Grace Avila said around 20 affected boarders were transferred to the main building after the incident.

She said there could have been casualties if the male boarders had not rushed to rescue the female boarders.

The survivors underwent stress debriefing.

Avila asked for help from the local police as the 1.5-hectare Haran compound only had one security guard.

Fanagel said there are about 700 lumads who are staying at the Haran from Brgy. White Kulaman in Bukidnon and Kapalong and Talaingod in Davao del Norte since May 2015.

About 200 lumads from Talaingod returned to their homes last December 2015 but they came back on January 29, 2016 after a 15-year old student of Salugpongan TaTan Igkanugon Community Learning Center was allegedly killed by members of the paramilitary group Alamara on January 17.

But Datu Lumansad Sibogan, a member of the board of trustees of the Council of Elders, said Tingkas, his grandson, was killed during a pangayaw or tribal war at Sitio Laslasakan, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod. (

MILF denies link with armed group in Lanao province

From GMA News (Feb 26): MILF denies link with armed group in Lanao province

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has denied having links with the Maute group of Lanao del Sur, according to a report aired over Super Radyo dzBB.

MILF 102nd Base Command led by Commander Abdullah Makapaar alias Kumander Bravo said they are not connected with the group that engaged government soldiers in armed clashes in Lanao del Sur province, particularly in Barangay Bayabao in Butig town.

Makapaar's statement came after Brig. Gen. Restituto Padidlia said the armed group responsible for the attacks in Southern Philippines were MILF members.

42 members of rebel group in Lanao Sur killed in clashes —military official

GMA News (Feb 26): 42 members of rebel group in Lanao Sur killed in clashes —military official

At least 42 members of a local rebel group have been killed in clashes with government forces since Saturday in Lanao del Sur, the military claimed Friday.

But Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said government troops have recovered four bodies, so far.

 Citing intelligence reports, Tan said: “More or less 42 were killed on the enemy side.”

Meanwhile, News To Go on Friday reported that the death toll on the rebels' side has gone up to 50.

 Quoting military sources, the report also said that five government forces have already been killed in the ongoing operation in Butig town.

On the other hand, Tan claimed that the group is led by brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, who supposedly have links with the Southeast Asian regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah.

Also, he said government troops on Thursday seized a stronghold of the group, and that the fatalities on the government side stood at four on Thursday.

Military materiel recovered during the operations were two M16 rifles, two rocket propelled grenades and a home-made cal. 50 rifle, Tan said.

The fighting broke out on the evening of Feb. 20 when the rebels attacked a military detachment in Butig. Government reinforcements came in, leading to a full-blown military campaign.

MILF repositions troops to assist AFP in BIFF pursuit

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 26): MILF repositions troops to assist AFP in BIFF pursuit
The military wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have repositioned more than a thousand of its fighters in several barangays to avoid a mis-encounter as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continues its law enforcement operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other terrorist groups operating in the province.

Last February 5, the AFP’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade initiated a law enforcement operation against the BIFF that traversed through barangays Gawang and Madia in the municipality of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and barangays Tee and Andavit in the municipality of Datu Salibo. Prior to the operation, the MILF repositioned a total of 1,737 members of its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) to give way to the AFP’s pursuit operations against the BIFF.

“All BIAF forces in these areas are repositioned to allow our armed forces the freedom to operate against the BIFF. We want to avoid mis-encounters between the government forces and the MILF,” said Director Carlos Sol, Jr., Head of the GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Secretariat. “We repositioned the MILF from their communities to three repositioning sites.”

Established in 2003, the CCCH is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF. Aside from resolving complaints over ceasefire violations so that small skirmishes do not intensify, the CCCH is also instrumental in maintaining peace and order in communities with members of the MILF.

The sites mentioned by Dir. Sol include Sitio Udsuran, Brgy. Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan; Sitio Diate, Brgy. Pamalian and Sitio Balbugan, Brgy. Pagatin, Shariff of Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao. The more than one thousand BIAF members are from the MILF’s 105th, 118th, and the Interim and National base commands.

Meanwhile, civilians affected by the law enforcement operation composed mostly of families of the repositioned BIAF combatants are being assisted by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART), the provincial government of Maguindanao, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Majority of the civilians are temporarily staying with their relatives in barangays Madia, Dapiawan, Kitango, and other secured areas. The DSWD 12, through the CCCH, have been providing those affected by the repositioning with provisional food packs every ten days. The CCCH said that the DSWD 12 will be assisting until the situation normalized.

Sol explained that the repositioning was an excellent example of how the coordination between government and MILF forces was pivotal in the conduct of law enforcement operations and preventing mis-encounters. The MILF, on the other hand, has expressed its continued commitment in assisting the Philippine government in its pursuit of the BIFF.

“The partnership [between the government and the MILF] is on because the peace agreement and [the] ceasefire agreement did not collapse,” said one MILF member assigned to the CCCH.

The ongoing AFP operation is near the so-called SPMS Box – Salbo, Pagatin, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak– where more or less six thousand BIAF members and their families reside. Sol said the MILF has given assurances that in case the pursuit operation would spread, the MILF would also be willing and ready to reposition their forces there. (OPAPP)

MILF puts up evacuation center as clashes continue

From The Standard (Feb 26): MILF puts up evacuation center as clashes continue

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday  declared one of its strongholds an evacuation center for some 500 families caught in the fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and bandits.

Clashes erupted on Feb. 20 when a group the military described as foreign and local terrorists harassed a military camp of the 51st  Infantry Battalion in Barangay Bayabao, Butig in Lanao del Sur.

The attack spilled over to a nearby village in Barangay Poktan in the same municipality.

Ameruddin Usman, a member of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities in Lanao, said they coordinated with the MILF front commander to declare Barangay Sandab an evacuation center.

MILF spokesman Von Al Haq said they received reports that the group that harassed the military in Butig called themselves members of the ISIS or the Islamic State.

Usman said about 500 families fled their homes and have found refuge in Barangay Sandab. Others went to their respective relatives in the other barangays away from the fighting.

The head of the government’s CCCH secretariat Carlos Sol Jr. said the barangay was prepared to ensure the safety of the evacuees. “There are facilities. There are schools, and other houses where the evacuees could go for temporary shelter,” he said.

Sol said that through the ceasefire arrangement with the MILF, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in the area were immediately informed and repositioned to prevent a misencounter between the military and the MILF.

The ceasefire between the government and the MILF was first instituted in 1997.

While there had been occasional violations over the years, there were no skirmishes from 2012 to 2014.

Al Haq said the MILF had no involvement in the fighting and that they had no reason to engage the military.

“We are very sad about the attacks in Lanao del Sur.” he said.

Top BIAF Commander Abdullah Macapaar, also known as “Commander Bravo,” denied allegations that he and his group were involved in the attack on government soldiers in Balindong and Butig, Lanao del Sur. He urged the ceasefire committees of the government and MILF to investigate the attacks.

A few days ago, MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim issued a statement saying that “the MILF will continue to uphold the peace process and ensure that all the gains will be preserved.”

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said on Feb. 5, the AFP’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade initiated a law enforcement operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that traversed through barangays Gawang and Madia in the municipality of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and barangays Tee and Andavit in the municipality of Datu Salibo.

Before the operation, the MILF repositioned 1,737 members of its BIAF to give way to the AFP’s pursuit operations against the BIFF.

Accused denies communicating with Lahad Datu intrusion leader

From the Malay Online (Feb 25): Accused denies communicating with Lahad Datu intrusion leader

An accused in the Lahad Datu intrusion case denied communicating with the leader of the armed group that intruded into Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu about three years ago.

Basil Samiul, 35, a Filipino, said he did not know who the leader, Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, was and also did not recognise the telephone number 019-7569906 claimed to be used by the accused in the conversations.

 “My telephone number is 012-6418816. I bought the number from a shop in Semporna in 2010 when I came to Sabah,” said the accused in the Suluk language, whose testimony was translated by a court interpreter.

Basil was entering his defence for a charge of soliciting or giving support to a terrorist group and had chose to testify in the witness dock.

The accused also denied that the person known as ‘Basil’ in communication interception transcripts was not him.

To a question by counsel Majnah Abdillah, he said he had a red Nokia handphone that was never tendered in court during the prosecution trial, despite being seized by the police officer who arrested him.

He told the court that he learnt from the police officer’s testimony in court during the prosecution trial that the handphone was returned to his wife.

Basil said on the day of his arrest on March 13, 2013, he and his family wanted to return to their house at Kampung Sejati 2 in Semporna after staying at his cousin’s house at Kampung Lihak-Lihak, Semporna.

He told the court that he had difficulty finding transport because he and his family were illegal immigrants and did not possess identification documents.

He said he met a man in Lahad Datu who was able to provide transport for him and his family and they went in a Perodua Viva driven by the man to fetch them at a junction at Kampung Lihak-Lihak.

A Perodua MyVi, driven by the older brother of the man, followed them from behind, he said.

 “After fetching my family at the junction, police had stopped us and we were arrested about a mile after the junction,” he said.

During cross-examination by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar, Basil said he disagreed that his hometown of Siasi, Sibangkat in the Philippines was under the rule of the Sulu Sultanate.

 “I do not know any Sulu sultan. As far as I know, my hometown is ruled by the Philippine government,” he said.

The accused, who never learnt to read and write, said he and his family travelled illegally to Sabah because life in his hometown was hard.

He told the court that he knew Sabah was ruled by the Malaysian government and although he was aware that he was living here illegally, it did not mean he had no respect for Malaysia’s immigration law.

 “I just did not the have opportunity to obtain any travel document from the Philippines because I was poor,” said Basil, who had lived on selling fish, fruits and plastic bags at the Semporna market.

On March 2, 2013, the night of the skirmish at Kampung Simunul in Semporna, he told the court that he did not sell his ware at the market and stayed at home because the situation at Semporna was already chaotic.

Thirteen Filipinos and a local man are entering their defence before Justice Stephen Chung at the Sabah Prison Department for various offences allegedly committed between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.

Some of the accused are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group and waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Some are alleged to have wilfully harboured individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group, or solicited or gave support to a terrorist group. The hearing continues tomorrow.

Regional Terrorism-Related Event: Travellers warned of ‘advanced’ Indonesian terror plot

From the Australian (Feb 26): Travellers warned of ‘advanced’ Indonesian terror plot

Members of the police and army stand guard in Kuala Lumpur

Terrorists could be in the ­“advanced stages” of planning an attack in Indonesia, the Australian government has warned — the second alert for the region this week after it flagged possible ­attacks on Kuala Lumpur earlier.

The warnings come amid fears of rising militancy and the growing influence of Islamic State across Southeast Asia.

“Recent indications suggest that terrorists may be in the ­advanced stages of preparing ­attacks in Indonesia,” said updated advice on the government Smart Traveller site yesterday.

“We advise you to exercise a high ­degree of caution in Indonesia, including Bali, at this time due to the high threat of terrorist ­attack.”

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said yesterday Canberra had ­advised “a few days back” of its intention to upgrade its advice, demonstrating the level of co-­operation between the countries.

“What we have been informed (is) that recent indications ­suggest there is indication of ­(terrorists) maybe preparing — maybe,” he said.

“My information from our ­security authority here is that we have not received information on this increased threat. Information we received this morning is that they haven’t found any indication of increasing threat.”

Security was stepped up across the country following the January 14 attacks in central Jakarta that killed eight people including four militants. The attack was the first significant terror strike on the capital since the 2009 attack on Jakarta’s Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott hotels.

Security has been tightened in preparation for next month’s meeting in Jakarta of Organisation of Islamic Co-­operation members to discuss the future of Palestinian claims. About 40 ­people have been ­arrested across Indonesia recently on suspicion of terrorist links.

The Australian travel advisory noted Indonesian police had “stated publicly that terrorist ­suspects remain at large and they may seek to attack Western ­targets”, including nightclubs, bars, international schools, restaurants, hotels and airports.
On Sunday, the government warned of possible terror attacks on major Malaysian cities, including Kuala Lumpur, drawing a sharp rebuke and claims of racism from the Malay­sian government and police.

The advice also warned against travel to coastal resorts in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state, citing a high threat of kidnapping and attacks by armed insurgents.

Kuala Lumpur has had no prominent terrorist attacks in ­recent years although last month Prime Minister Najib Razak said Islamic State and its regional ­affiliate Katibah Nusantara — also linked to the Jakarta attacks — posed a very real threat.

Malaysia’s Tourism and ­Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz said Australia faced a greater threat than Kuala Lumpur “so for me, if they want to warn their ­citizens to be careful, that’s not a problem”. “We also tell our ­citizens to be careful when they go to Australia because that country is racist,” he said.

Yohanes Sulamein, a security analyst at Indonesia’s National Defence University, said there was a lot of “chatter and ­bragging” among militant networks and that was the likely source of Australia’s intelligence.

Where are the foreign ASG hostages?

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 25): Where are the foreign ASG hostages?

Amid the election fever, a senior leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has raised concern over the welfare of at least five foreigners and some Filipinos still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)  in Sulu.

“I don’t really know for sure, but it seems the government has forgotten the foreign and local hostages,” the MNLF leader, who asked not to be named, asserted.

He said the case of the hostages still being held by the ASG may have been lost in “the ongoing election campaign and the military offensive in Sulu.”

The foreign hostages he was referring to include three foreigners – Canadians John Ridsel and Robert Hall, and Canadian Kjartan Sekkingtad – and a Filipina, Maritess Flor.
A Dutch bird watcher, Ewold Horn, is also among the foreign hostages after he and Filipino colleague, Lorenzo Vinciguerra were abducted in Tawi-Tawi four years ago. Vinciguerra has since been able to escape from their captors.

There, too, is Italian Rolando del Torchio, a former priest who now owns a pizza parlor in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte. He was kidnapped in October last year.

The MNLF leader said he believed that the foreign captives were all with various ASG sub-groups scattered in Sulu and are being dragged around in the jungles as the bandits try to elude relentless military offensives.

ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, whose group is holding the four Samal Island captives, had earlier demanded a P3-billion ransom for the three foreigners, which he later reduced to P900 million.

The source also said the ASG sub-leaders and groups, among them, Al-Habsi Misaya, Sawadjaan, Ilo Group (Orphans’ Group) and Ajang-Ajang recognize senior Radulan Sahiron as their overall chieftain and they share any ransom money they get with him.

The sub-groups are helping each other and they can easily gather some 400 armed fighters combined if they are cornered.

The MNLF leader said a relative of an ASG sub-leader and another source from the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) in Zamboanga City provided him with these details.

He said he spoke with them and asked if there was any ongoing negotiation or effort to secure the hostages’ freedom.

“My friends told me that, at present, there was no negotiation,” the MNLF leader in Sulu said.

Envoy: Kadafi won’t be freed

From The Star Online (Feb 26): Envoy: Kadafi won’t be freed

KOTA KINABALU: Manila is confident that notorious cross-border kidnap gang leader Kadafi Muktadil, who is wanted by Malaysia, will not be freed from Jolo lock-up anytime soon as he is under investigations for other kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

Philippines Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya said it was “very unlikely” that the wanted man would be freed by the courts.

Kadafi’s lawyer is attempting to get the courts in Jolo to release him from police custody, on the basis that the warrant of arrest from a Sandakan court was a photostat copy and there is no extradition treaty between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Kadafi is not only being sought to account for the kidnap and murder of Bernard Then Ted Fen but also for other kidnappings perpetrated in Mindanao.
“Criminal charges have been filed against him for the kidnapping and illegal detention of Philippines coastguard personnel Rod Allain Pagaling in May 2015 in Pagadian City (Mindanao),” said Malaya.

He was responding to The Star report on Thursday on concerns that a photostat arrest warrant issued by the Sandakan court might not hold weight in the Philippines court.

Malaya, however, said that the early receipt of authenticated copies of the arrest warrant and related papers (which were earlier requested by the Philippines) would be helpful for the case, though there were currently ample legal justifications for the Philippines judicial system to keep him confined in jail.

Malaya added that the Kadafi case and other cases showed enhanced working partnership between Philippines and Malaysian authorities, which is mutually beneficial.

Kadafi, who took part in the kidnapping of Then, had through his lawyer applied to the Philippines court for his release because the arrest warrant submitted by the prosecutors was merely a photostat copy.

He was captured by Philippines police at a Jolo hospital after he was injured in a motorcycle accident on Nov 28.

The criminal and his brother Mindas were alleged to have led the May 14 Sandakan kidnapping where they grabbed Then and restaurant manageress Thien Nyuk Fun from the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant.

Mindas was killed by Philippines police in Jolo town later the same month.
Thien was released on Nov 8. Then was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen after ransom negotiations collapsed on Nov 17.

Malaysian police are interested to question Kadafi and hoped to charge him in Malaysian courts for the Sandakan kidnapping case.

Police are also seeking the assistance of their Filipino counterparts to question another suspect, Saddam Jailani, believed to be part of the Abu Sayyaf group that beheaded Then.

Arson at Haran?

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 25): Arson at Haran?

Fire at 2 dorms where Lumads stay deliberate, activists claim

POLICE investigators are verifying reports of armed men torching two dormitories inside the UCCP Haran compound along Fr. Selga Street that injured two children and four other Lumad at 2:30 a.m. yesterday.

Speaking in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press conference held at Task Force Davao, Chief  Insp. Milgrace C. Driz said they are still gather evidence and testimonies from the
victims and eyewitnesses.
“Whatever evidence we gather will be used in the case we will file if we can arrest the perpetrators,” she said.
In a text message, Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, strongly condemned the incident.
“Undoubtedly, it is a clear case of arson. It wasn’t an accident but politically motivated,” Suazo said, as she accused the 10th Infantry Division and the Alamara of being behind the incident.
“Since last year, the evaciuees have been experiencing harassments from the AFP,” she alleged.
Brig.Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, deputy commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, meanwhile, said they will just wait for the results of the investigation into the incident.
“There is an ongoing investigation we will find who the culprits are,” he said.
“it’s hard to start pointing fingers at anybody.”
Nevertheless, he said that the military won’t gain anything by burning down the dormitories.
But Task Force Davao chief, Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, threw back the accusation at the leftist groups as he said that they could have started the fire to “gain more attention,” or so “their donors will give more money because Haran was burned down.”
“Those are just the angles we are looking at,” Cristobal said.
According to Crestoni Latiban Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka farmers group, one of the temporary shelters near gate 2 was deliberatedly set on fire.
Among those injured were Magno Kulot, 14; Odessa Dumol, 12; Loloy Manayap, 30, and his 2-year-old son, all residents of Talaingod, Davao Del norte.
After a few minutes, they heard an explosion from Gregorio Gonzales dorm occupied by students before the flames started to spread to the adjacent dorm.
Elisa Payta Fuentes, 27, told investigators that she noticed a man jump off from the Haran gate 2 before the fire started.
SFO4 Dioscorro Baja Jr., investigator of the Bureau of Fire, said the fire started at at 2:53 a.m. and they were able to control the flames about 20 minutes later.
They were also able to recover one plastic gallon container in the area. They are still investigating if it’s linked to the fire.
“We traced the point of origin, and according to the witness, the fire came from outside the house which was why I became suspicious,” he said.
The estimated cost of damaged was about P900,000.
The Haran Compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines has become a temporary shelter of the Lumads, numbering about 700 who left their homes in Bukidnon and Talaingod, Davao del Norte reportedly because of militarization.
In July 2015, a commotion between the police, leftists and Lumads occurred resulting to injuries on both sides.

11 villages placed under poll watchlist

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 23): 11 villages placed under poll watchlist

ELEVEN barangays in the city’s third district are placed under category two of the final election watchlist.
The areas are Mapula, Lumiad, Panalum, Malabog, Paradise Embac and Pandaitan of Paquibato District; barangays Malamba and Tamaugan of  Marilog; and barangays  Carmen, Tambobong and Tawan-tawan in Baguio district.
“These are the areas where there is serious threat from armed groups, specifically the New People’s Army,” Chief Insp. Milgrace C. Driz, spokesperson of Davao City Police Office, said in an interview yesterday.
Driz said they will provide additional augmentation coming from the City Public Safety Company, in coordination with the military, to secure the area.
Category one in the election watchlist refers to the area where there’s a high  probability of occurrence of politically motivated violent incident, and when the political rivalry is intense.
Category three refers to the the presence of intense political rivalry along with the presenc of armed groups.
The police and military already tightened their security measures as  election campaign period started.
Driz said they are  already on full alert status since the start of the election period.
“The personnel should always be ready in their areas especially if there are visiting national candidates,” she said.
In a separate interview, Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Ano, commanding general of the Philippines Army, said he already ordered all field commanders to be on guard against threats that may arise during the campaign period.
“We will prioritize to those units who are directly engaged in operations,”Ano said.
For the May 9, 2016 elections, the campaign period for president, vice president, senators and party-list groups runs from Feb. 9 to May 7, while for local positions it will be from March 5 to May 7.

‘Child warrior’ surrenders

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 25): ‘Child warrior’ surrenders

ANOTHER alleged child warrior was accompanied by two of his uncles to the headquarters of the 46th Infantry Battalion in Pantukan, Compostela Valley on Tuesday to facilitate his surrender.
The 14-year-old was reportedly used by the New People’s Army in planting bombs and landmines.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, said the relatives revealed that alias John was trained by the communist guerillas in improvised explosive devices targeting soldiers, police and other agents of the government.
However, the two uncles claimed that the teenager received threats from the NPA after he decided to distance himself from the rebel group.
John was turned over to the Pantukan PNP and will be transferred to the Department of Social Service and Development regional office for evaluation and custody.
It can be recalled that another “child soldier,” known as alias Dong, 14, was captured together with Ronel Paas alias Dondon, 35, at a checkpoint while escaping from an encounter with elements of 46IB at Sitio Post 4 of the same municipality last Feb. 9.
The two were wounded following a clash earlier that day. They were brought to a hospital in Pantukan where Paas died.
After initial treatment, Dong was evacuated to Camp Panacan Hospital and subsequently turned over to the care and protection of DSWD. He will require another surgery to take another bullet on his left leg.
Maj. Gen Rafael Valencia, 10th ID commander, reiterated his call to the remaining rebels to lay down their arms.
“The NPA should respect the rights of children to live normal and peaceful lives,” he said. “They should also respect international convention and protocols which provide that children shall neither be recruited in the armed forces or groups nor allowed to take part in hostilities.”

NPA bomb-making hardware found at storage area: army

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 25): NPA bomb-making hardware found at storage area: army

SOLDIERS recovered two high-powered firearms and explosives from a temporary holding facility in Sitio Muling, Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on Saturday.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, told reporters in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press conference, that the troops were checking the report of the presence of IED factory in Sitio Muling when they chanced upon a group of rebels.
It triggered a 20-minute firefight, although there were no reported wounded on both sides.
The fleeing communist rebels left behind two Garand rifles.
Soldiers found one improvised grenade launcher; 11 cartridges of improvised 60mm grenade; seven cartridges of 40mm grenade; five improvised anti-personnel landmine; four cartridges of anti-personnel landmine; three cartridges of anti-tank landmine; 18 sticks of dynamite and 280-meter detonating cord.
Also, they recovered 11 boxes of 6.35 steel ball; 65 pieces of toggle switch; 200 pieces of Zener diode; soldering gun, 500 pieces of series lights, automatic voltage regulator; a mini-lathe machine; a drilling machine; bar cutter; grinding machine; sewing machine and a single phase motor.
The storage reportedly belonged to the Front Committee 34 of Southern Mindanao Regional Committee  of NPAs operating in Kapalong, New Corella, Talaingod in Davao del Norte and Laak in Compostela Valley.
In a statement, Maj.Gen.Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th ID, lauded the soldiers of 60th IB and cafgus of 72nd IB for their feat against the NPAs and the subsequent discovery of the IED factory.
“Our soldiers did not only save lives of our own men but they also spared civilian lives from the NPAs’ wanton use of IED without regard for the safety of the people in the community,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, deputy commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, clarified that what the soldiers stumbled into was not a bomb-making facility.
“It may be a temporary storage but not really a factory ,”he added.

MBLT-2 bids goodbye to Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 24): MBLT-2 bids goodbye to Sulu



Sulu provincial government leaders headed by Gov. Totoh Tan thanked the members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team - 2 who were actively involved in peace and humanitarian efforts after ending their tour of duty. (Photos by Ahl-franzie Salinas)
 Sulu provincial government leaders headed by Gov. Totoh Tan thanked the members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team – 2 who were actively involved in peace and humanitarian efforts after ending their tour of duty. (Photos by Ahl-franzie Salinas)


JOLO – Sulu provincial government leaders have thanked the members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team – 2 who were actively involved in peace and humanitarian efforts after ending their tour of duty.

Governor Totoh Tan, who was invited by the 2nd Marine Brigade to the departure honor of the troops, said the soldiers took part in many medical missions and promoted sports among the youth while in Sulu.

He congratulated the marines for their dedication to their duty and for helping the police and other law enforcement agencies in maintaining peace and order in the province.

Brigadier General Jose Cabanban, the brigade commander, thanked and praised Governor Tan, who is seeking re-election, for his support to the peace efforts of the marines in Sulu.

The MBLT2 was replaced by the Marine Battalion landing Team – 1 and Vice Governor Sakur Tan, accompanied by Jolo town Mayor Hussin Amin, welcomed the arrival of the soldiers. Brigadier Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, was also present during the arrival ceremony.

Vice Governor Tan, who is running for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, also spoke to the soldiers and vowed to support the marines in their duty to protect the citizens and uphold freedom and democracy.

The military also thanked Vice Governor Tan for his support and efforts in the promoting peace and unity in the province.

Troops kill drug pusher, capture 2 Sayyafs in Sulu

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Feb 25): Troops kill drug pusher, capture 2 Sayyafs in Sulu

AN ALLEGED drug pusher was killed while two suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were captured following a shootout with government troops in Sulu on Thursday.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said the shootout happened around 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Sitio Unique in the Barangay Busbus, Jolo.

He said the body of the slain suspected drug pusher, who is still unidentified, was brought to the Jolo police headquarters.

The two arrested suspected ASG members were identified as Al-Aziz Hadjiru Binang, 24, and Annuar Dalawis Hamid Totoh, 25.

Arrojado said Binang and Hamid are followers of Indanan-based ASG sub-leader Alden Bagade.

The shootout ensued when the policemen were fired upon while they were responding to an intelligence report about the presence of the suspects in a drug den at in the village of Busbus.

The troops recovered a pistol, a samurai sword and drug paraphernalia from the drug den.
Binang and Hamid were detained while appropriate charges are set to be filed against them.

Capa: Negros Island police force ready for offensives

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Feb 25): Capa: Negros Island police force ready for offensives

CHIEF Superintendent Conrado Capa, director of Police Regional Office-Negros Island Region (PRO-NIR), Wednesday downplayed the threats of the New People’s Army (NPA) that they will launch tactical offensives in the coming days.

He said the entire Negros Island Region police force are ready for any eventuality, pointing out that the attacks are usual for the NPA as their March 29 founding anniversary nears.

Capa called on the rebels to stop the bloodshed as the deaths of the two police officers in Candoni, Negros Occidental were already enough.

“It should stop there,” he said.

He directed his men – the public safety forces and all the station personnel – to fortify their forces.
Capa doesn’t believe that the rebel forces are gaining grounds, saying, “I don’t think so.”

Spokesperson Andrea Guerrero of the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the NPA-Southwest Negros Island Front said the other day that they will “continue to launch their tactical offensives to slow down and stop the reactionary ruling system of comprador-landlords until they reach the strategic stalemate at the soonest possible time.”

On February 18, six personnel of Candoni Municipal Police Station were ambushed by NPA rebels near the Panaculan Creek Bridge in Barangay Caningay.

Killed were Police Officer 3 Joeharry Peralta, 38, and PO1 Henry Pacheco, 30, while wounded were PO2 Jay Arroyo, 44, and PO1 Modesto Bina, 36, and a civilian identified as Rey Duales.

Senior Police Office 4 Boyd Mate, 43, and PO1 Charlemagne Caballero, 40, were unharmed.

The NPA admitted on Monday that they perpetrated the ambush last week, claiming that the town policemen were allegedly involved in illegal drug and illegal gambling operations.

Capa refuted the allegations of the rebels.

“Their claims are only justifications. The illegal drug operations in Candoni are not even intense,” he said.

Peralta and Pacheco will be laid to rest in their hometowns of Kabankalan City and Candoni, respectively, this Sunday.

Cops gird for violent NPA attacks

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 25): Cops gird for violent NPA attacks
Defenses of police stations in Negros Island have been fortified in anticipation of more violent activities of the New People's Army, in line with its 47th founding anniversary on March 29, police regional director Chief Supt. Conrado Capa said yesterday.
Capa said troopers of the PNP safety companies were also ordered to operate against lawless elements.
The strengthening of police defenses also came in the wake of the recent ambush in Candoni town that claimed the lives of two policemen and caused injuries to four others, including two civilians, the responsibility for which was claimed by the Armando Sumayang Command of the NPA in southern Negros.
Capa said it has been a tradition of the NPA to initiate violent activities during its founding anniversary, just to prove that they are still a force to reckon with.
He, however, said he is not inclined to believe that the NPA in Negros is going strong.
Military estimates say that there are still about 200 armed NPA rebels operating in Negros island.
Capa raised the possibility of conferring posthumous promotions to slain Police Officers Joe Harry Peralta and Henry Vell Pacheco, but a PNP board should be determined if they qualify.
He also called on the NPA to stop justifying its action of staging the ambush in Candoni.
Capa said that the two slain policemen have no connection whatsoever to illegal activities, as they were only office personnel, contrary to accusations of the NPA.
Capa led the donning of ranks on newly-promoted Supts. Cresenciano Cordero, Charles Tancinco, Giovani Martinez and Elmer Conchas, all assigned as deputies of various divisions of the Police Regional Office 18, in a ceremony held at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City.
He also announced the transfer of PRO 18 staff offices in Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod City, next month.

Gang leader may walk free

From The Star Online (Feb 25): Gang leader may walk free

 Kadafi Muktadil

Kadafi Muktadil

KOTA KINABALU: Notorious cross-border kidnap gang leader Kadafi Muktadil could walk free from a southern Philippines police lock-up if Filipino prosecutors fail to secure the original Malaysian warrant of arrest issued by a magistrate’s court in Sandakan.

Lawyers for Kadafi, who took part in the kidnapping of beheaded Sarawakian engineer Bernard Then Ted Fen, have applied to the Philippines court for his release because the arrest warrant submitted by the prosecutors was merely a photostat copy.

The lawyers have filed an urgent motion of habeas corpus seeking Kadafi’s immediate freedom.

They also argued that Kadafi, who is a key player in the Muktadil brothers gang linked to the Abu Sayyaf terror group, should be freed as there was no extradition treaty between Malaysia and the Philippines.
However, other Filipino officials say that if Malaysian authorities wanted Kadafi to face kidnapping charges in Sabah, they could try using the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty under Asean to seek his extradition.

Jolo police chief Major Junpikar Sitin told The Star they hoped that Malaysian authorities would send the original arrest warrant as a photostat copy might not be accepted by the court.

“We have submitted a photostat copy but it is quite a weak document for us to argue our case in court and detain him further,” Major Sitin said.

He added that Kadafi remained in custody under Jolo police pending the conclusion of their investigations into other kidnapping cases.

Kadafi and his brother Mindas were part of the kidnap gang which snatched Then, 37, and Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, manageress of Ocean King Seafood restaurant, in Sandakan on May 14 last year.

Thien was released on Nov 8 while Then was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen after ransom negotiations collapsed on Nov 17.

Kadafi was arrested by Philip­pines security forces at a hospital in Jolo after he was injured following a motorcycle accident on Nov 28.

His arrest was seen as a major breakthrough in efforts by both the Philippines and Malaysia to cripple the gang linked to cross-border kidnappings.

Two other Muktadir brothers, Nikson and Badong, who are members of the gang based in the southern Philippines’ Tawi Tawi chain of islands, remain at large.

Guns, explosives found in NPA bomb factory

From Tempo (Feb 25): Guns, explosives found in NPA bomb factory

Government forces seized high-powered firearms, explosives and bomb making tools from an improvised explosive device (IED) factory of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao del Norte.

Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, Army 10th Infantry Division (10ID) public affairs officer, said troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion along with CAGGU members were sent to Sitio Muling, Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, to check on the reported presence of an IED factory in the area around 5 a.m. last Feb. 20.

As they reached the place, they were fired upon by a group of NPA rebels belonging to Guerilla Front 34 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC). A 25-minute exchange of fire ensued before the rebels fled.

Batchar said no casualty was reported on the government side, while the NPA is believed to have suffered casualties as bloodstains were seen in the encounter site.

The troops also recovered one improvised grenade launcher, 11 cartridges of improvised 60mm grenade, seven cartridges of 40mm grenade, five improvised anti-personnel landmine, four cartridges of anti-personnel landmine, and three cartridges of anti-tank landmine.

Also recovered were 18 sticks of dynamite superdyne, 280-meter detonating cord, 11 boxes of 6.35 steel ball, 65 pieces of toggle switch, 200 pieces of Zener diode, 500 pieces of series lights, a soldering gun, an automatic voltage regulator, a mini lathe machine with accessories, a drilling machine, a bar cutter, a grinding machine, and a single phase motor.

Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, 10ID commander, lauded the soldiers of 60IB and CAFGU elements of 72IB for their feat against the NPA and the subsequent discovery of the IED factory.

“Our soldiers did not only save lives of our own men but they also spared civilian lives from the NPA’s wanton use of IED without regard for the safety of the people in the community,” he said.

100 jihadists sent on bombing missions

From The Standard (Feb 25): 100 jihadists sent on bombing missions

AT least 100 extremists have completed their training in bomb making from foreign jihadists and are being deployed on test missions in various areas of Mindanao, military sources said  Wednesday.

The military issued the warning even as security forces continued their three-week long offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a splinter group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The offensive has already killed an Indonesian jihadist and Omar Maute, the leader of a band of rebels that has been harboring foreign terrorists.

Maute, was killed by troops of the Army’s 51st  Infantry Battalion in Butig, Lanao del Sur over the weekend, but his wife, an Indonesian jihadist, is still hiding somewhere in Mindanao, the source said.

Maute is believed to have harbored Indonesian terrorist Mohammad Muktar, who was killed in the clashes at Butig.

Muktar is believed to be part of a group of Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists who fled their homelands and sought refuge with extremists in Mindanao.

The foreign jihadists were the ones who trained the group of 100 extremists in bomb making somewhere in Liguasan Marsh near Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, the source said.

As part of their training, the local extremists planted explosive devices in the towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Hofer and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao and in Pikit and Aleosan towns in North Cotabato, the source added.

The military had earlier reported that at least 18 government soldiers were injured by these bombs. Five civilians, including the town treasurer of Datu Salibo, were also among the casualties of the bombs planted by the extremist group.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said they were “always on the alert” for terrorist attacks.

The recruits were trained by Salahudin Hassan, a member of the Al Khobar group supporting the Jemaah Islamiya and Mumanda Ali, alias Mauwiya, a former military officer from Singapore, who took part in the 2001 bomb attack in Bali, Indonesia. He sought refuge in Mindanao in 2002.

The recruits include Jolo-based militants and extremists from Central Mindanao.

Similar reports of bombing missions by at least six ASG recruits under terrorist sub-leader Majan Sajidjuan, alias Mike, spread in Sulu after they were seen roaming Jolo last month, prompting Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado to put his troops on alert.

The more than 100 land mines found in Datu, Salibo were laid by the recruits as part of their test missions, the source said.

The military has been clearing the area of land mines.

Muktar was the second Indonesian militant to have been killed after security forces launched a campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu and BIFF in Central Mindanao.

Reports, meanwhile, indicated that members of the MILF’s 102nd Base Command under Abdullah Makapaar, alias commander Bravo,were responsible for the ambush of an Army mechanized brigade in Butig town that left four soldiers dead.

The MILF’s 102nd  BC has been in an alliance with JI bomb expert Azahari, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both masterminds of the 2002 Bali, Indonesia blast that left 202 people killed.

Dulmatin was killed in a firefight with Indonesian police in 2010 while Patek was captured by Pakistani security forces in Abbotabad on Jan. 25, 2011. Both were involved in a series of bombings in Mindanao during that period.

“Very significantly, there has been an alliance between MILF 102nd BC and foreign jihadists and it also appears that the MILF cannot control Bravo, the current MILF’s regional commander in the Western Front Command,” a source said.

“The MILF is avoiding the issue of Bravo’s actions, it’s like a good cop or bad cop tactic,” the source added.

Over 1,700 MILF fighters repositioned to help AFP in campaign vs. BIFF –OPAPP

From GMA News (Feb 25): Over 1,700 MILF fighters repositioned to help AFP in campaign vs. BIFF –OPAPP

Over 1,700 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters are assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in pursuing the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other lawless elements in Maguindanao, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Thursday.

In a statement, the OPAPP said the MILF's military wing, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), repositioned a total of 1,737 of its members in several barangays as the military continues law enforcement operations against the BIFF.

At present, government security forces are conducting operations in Barangays Gawang and Madia in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town and Barangays Tee and Andavit in Datu Salibo town.

The OPAPP said the ongoing operations of the AFP is near the towns of Salbo, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Shariff Aguak, or the so-called SPMS Box, where some 6,000 members of the BIAF reside with their families.

Major Carlos Sol Jr., head of the Philippine government's Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities Secretariat, said the repositioning "allow(s) our armed forces the freedom to operate against the BIFF."

He added that it is a way "to avoid misencounters between the government forces and the MILF."

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF, which earlier said it would continue an all-out offensive attack until the end of 2015.

The group is believed to be involved in the Jan. 25, 2015 Mamasapano clash, where 44 PNP-Special Action Force troopers, 17 MILF members, and five civilians were killed.

In July 2015, the joint special investigation team on the clash recommended that two commanders of the BIFF and several other members be charged with murder, as well as theft for refusing to return the gear and guns of the fallen troops.

The OPAPP also said civilians – most of whom are families of the repositioned BIAF combatants – have temporarily moved with relatives in nearby secured barangays.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team is assisting them along with the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region XII.

They are provided with provisional food packs every 10 days, which will last "until the situation normalized," it added.

GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms to ensure Cotabato road project completion

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 24): GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms to ensure Cotabato road project completion

Despite security threats, the construction of a farm-to-market road that will connect barangays from the towns of Aleosan and Pikit in Cotabato Province will push through, thanks to the firm commitment of the joint ceasefire mechanisms of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) to ensure security towards project completion.

Phase 1 of the concreting of the five-kilometer Pagangan-Tubak, Aleosan-New Valencia-Bualon-Pamalian, Pikit Road started in November 2015, as a project under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA).

PAMANA is the national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities. It is undertaken through the Department of Agriculture's PAMANA FY (fiscal year) 2015 fund and implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The road is expected to benefit more than 300 households when completed. Most people in the barangays where the road will be built are Bangsamoro and civilian members of both the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Last January 15, work on the project was suspended due to extortion and security threats received by the local government of Barangay Pagangan from Sheik Muhidin Amimbang, chief of staff of brigands Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Amimbang sent a letter demanding for a certain percentage of the project cost which amounted to more than half-a-million pesos (P500,000.00).

When the barangay officials did not respond to the threat, the BIFF burned a closed van owned by the DPWH-project contractor Sunstone Construction and strafed the house of Barangay Pagangan Chairman Gregorio Guanzon.

“We will not let any lawless group sabotage a project for the people,” GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Secretariat Director Carlos Sol Jr. said.”   The ceasefire mechanisms of the government and the MILF will work with our security mechanisms to help ensure the security and welfare of the workers and construction facilities in the area.”

“We should be supportive of the development projects by the Government in Mindanao,” Sol added.

Meanwhile, Butch Malang of the MILF CCCH said that “the MILF will support and participate on security matters relative to the completion of the project.”

AFP LTC Romeo Bautista (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of the 45th Infantry Battalion, 6ID, PA, has committed military personnel to secure the project facility and set up a temporary patrol base. The PNP is already conducting its investigation into the extortion issue as well as the acts of violence committed as it prepares to file a case against the BIFF.

Participants to the meeting agreed that the security cooperation between the GPH and MILF shall be established before the start of the project in order to secure the equipment, personnel and others involved in the road project implementation.

In the past, the combined efforts of the ceasefire mechanisms under the Bangsamoro peace process have likewise been instrumental in securing other project facilities against the threats of armed elements ‎and in keeping the peace on the ground. Testament to this is the decision of the GPH and MILF negotiating panels to renew the mandates of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) in their recent meeting in Malaysia.

Aside from monitoring the implementation of the cessation of hostilities between the GPH and the MILF, the IMT also monitors the humanitarian, rehabilitation, development and socio-economic assistance aspects of the signed agreements, the observance of international humanitarian laws and respect for human rights, and the verification and reporting on basic undertaking of the Parties to protect civilians and civilian communities.

The AHJAG, on the other hand, is responsible for coordinating, monitoring and disseminating information between the GPH and the MILF in order to isolate and interdict all criminal syndicates/kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal groups operating in Bangsamoro communities and nearby areas. (OPAPP)