Dozens of improvised explosives and components were found at the Abu Sayyaf lair in Sumisip, Basilan, leading authorities to suspect that the group is training in making bombs or launching an attack, a military official said Saturday.

Lieutenant Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the bombs were found after members of the 12th Scout Ranger Company and policemen “overran” the bandits’ camp in Sitio Bohe Piyat, Brgy. Baiwas, on Thursday.

“More than 10 IEDs were recovered and more than a dozen were detonated in place by the troops. ‘Yung mga detonated in place were used as booby traps,” Cabangbang said.

“The whole area was rigged with IEDs, an estimated 6-kilometer radius,” he said.

Various bomb-making components, enough to fill a sack, were also found in the camp and could be an indication that the group has funds.

“They were crude materials, ammonium nitrate ang main component. May pondo sila pero not that much,” Cabangbang said when asked how the military assesses the presence of bomb-making components.

“We believe that they will be conducting an IED training… More likely training muna, then bombing as part of the test mission,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf is said to be now under the leadership of Khair Mundos, a key operative wanted by the US government for supporting the Al Qaeda’s terror activities in the country.

Mundos was arrested in May 2004 and while in police custody, confessed to having arranged the transfer of funds from the Al Qaeda to then Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani to be used in bombings and other criminal acts throughout Mindanao.

He escaped from the North Cotabato Provincial Jail in February 2007 and has been repeatedly sighted in the hinterlands of Basilan afterwards.

In May 2009, the US State Department released a $500,000 reward for anyone who could help authorities re-arrest Mundos.

Mundos, along with Basilan Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama, were reportedly seen when troops assaulted the bandit camp on Thursday.

The operation, supported by attack helicopters and artillery, was also initiated to effect the arrest warrants of Mundos and Indama, who are both wanted for crimes ranging from murder to kidnapping, Cabangbang said.

However, as members of the 12th SRC were scouring the area for IEDs around 4:50 p.m., members of the 10th Scout Ranger Company who were conducting support operations encountered about 40 bandits. One soldier was killed and three others were injured in the clash. (John Roson)

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