Archive for February, 2016


Authorities in Northern Mindanao have been alerted for a possible “spillover” of clashes between government troops and a local terrorist group in neighboring Lanao del Sur, police said said Saturday.

“The command, which is already on ‘full alert’ status, has intensified its intelligence build-up and checkpoint operations in its boundaries to contain and prevent a spillover,” said Supt. Surki Sereñas, Northern Mindanao regional police spokesman.

Members of the 10th Regional Public Safety Battalion have also been sent to augment provincial and city police units that share geographical boundaries with Lanao del Sur “in case of eventualities,” Sereñas said in a statement.

Lanao del Norte and its capital, Iligan City, share a vast boundary with Lanao del Sur.

Police units there are also “constantly” coordinating with police and military counterparts in the affected areas, Sereñas said.

Clashes in Lanao del Sur’s Butig town erupted last February 20 after about 80 to 100 followers of brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute attacked a military detachment there.

As of Saturday, troops have recovered five bodies of the Mautes’ followers, three M16 rifles, a sniper rifle, and two rocket-propelled grenades, said Colonel Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade.

Earlier, the military said intelligence reports indicate that at least 42 terror suspects, including Omar Maute, had been killed in the week-long offensive.

Three soldiers also died in the clashes while 11 more were injured.

Security forces have been pounding the hinterlands of Butig since Feb. 20 with OV-10 bomber planes, MG-520 attack helicopters, and Howitzer cannons, prompting more than 20,000 people living nearby to evacuate.

No clash occurred on Saturday, but soldiers are still pursuing the Mautes’ remaining followers, Murillo said.

The Maute brothers’ group has been proclaiming itself as a branch of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but authorities dismissed these claims, saying the local gunmen were only joining the ISIS bandwagon.

The group is “allied” to a certain Ustadz Sanusi, an Indonesian conduit of the Jemaah Islamiyah who was killed in a raid in Marawi City in November 2012, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a recent interview. (John Roson)

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A foreign-looking man believed to be a German national was found dead inside a yacht drifting in waters of the Pacific Ocean near Barobo, Surigao del Sur, police said.

Fishermen found the man around 4:30 p.m. Thursday inside the yacht “Sajo,” about 62 miles from the shores of Barobo, said PO3 Val Warren Polancos, local police investigator.

“Yung mga mangingisda, pauwi na sana nung makita nila ‘yung yate. Nilapitan nila at tiningnan ‘yung loob para malaman kung anong maitutulong nila kasi sira na ‘yung sail. Doon sa loob nakita ‘yung foreigner na nakaupo,” Polancos said by phone.

The body, which was already starting to decompose, was found inside what appears to be the yacht’s radio room.

Documents found on the yacht indicate that the foreigner is one Manfred Fritz Bajorat, a German national, Polancos said.

“Foreigner talaga ‘yung tao, hindi lang namin masabi pa kung siya (Bajorat) talaga ‘yun kasi wala namang kasama,” he said.

The fishermen used their boat to drag the yacht to Cabgan Island and upon arriving there Friday afternoon, radioed for help from authorities in mainland Barobo, he said.

Local police have called in a team from the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) to determine what caused the foreigner’s death.

The incident has also been reported to the Surigao del Sur provincial police so it can inform the German Embassy, Polancos said. (John Roson)

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Government forces seized the lair of a local terrorist group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, following a week-long offensive that left as much as 45 people dead and 20,000 displaced, authorities said Friday.

Troops took the “stronghold” of Abdullah Maute and his recently deceased brother Omar before Thursday evening, said Maj. Filemon Tan, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesman.

“Sadly, three soldiers were killed and 11 were wounded,” Tan said in a text message to reporters.

Intelligence reports on Friday indicated that 42 of the terrorists, including Omar Maute, had been killed, he said.

Soldiers are scouring the group’s lair and have so far found two M16 rifles, a homemade caliber-.50 rifle, and two rocket-propelled grenades, Tan said.

Operations are still underway in the area, though air strikes and artillery fires were halted to give way to ground troops.

“Tao-tao muna at mga tangke ang pumapasok, naka-standby ang mga attack helicopter at kanyon kung kailanganin,” Tan said.

Security forces have been pounding the hinterlands of Butig since last Saturday (Feb.20) with OV-10 bomber planes, MG-520 attack helicopters, and Howitzer cannons, prompting thousands of people living nearby to evacuate homes.

20,000 displaced, more still fleeing

A total of 1,207 families are displaced within Butig while 1,328 fled to the adjacent towns of Masiu and Lumbayanague, and 2,446 more evacuated as far as Buadiposo-Buntong, Ditsaan Ramain, up to the provincial capital Marawi City, according to figures released by the provincial government.

The displaced families are made up of more than 20,000 individuals from five barangays, according to another count by the Office of Civil Defense-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Continuous pa rin [ang evacuation], kasi marami ring naipit doon, di makalabas. Naglalakad na nga ‘yung iba palabas kasi di naman basta-basta masundo dahil continuous ang bakbakan,” said Saripada Pacasum, assistant head of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

“May nadaanan nga kami kahapon (Thursday), ‘yung sasakyan nila binuksan na ‘yung bubong, nilagyan na ng gamit para magkasya lang sila. Kawawa. Makikita na sila (evacuees) sa kalsada na paalis,” he said.

Relief goods short

While those who are fleeing still face woes along the road, some families who have already evacuated are facing a shortage in relief goods.
Pacasum admitted that the sheer number of evacuees has become a concern for relief operations, so the provincial government asked the ARMM regional government for assistance.

As of Friday morning, a total 2,507 familes have been given relief goods and authorities are still working to distribute to 2,474 more.

“Kulang pa, kasi plus ito pa ngang nadadagdag na evacuees, so tuloy pa rin ang repacking,” Pacasum said.

Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. requested support and the ARMM government’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team is expected to deliver more goods Friday, he said.

Not ISIS

The Maute brothers’ group of about 80 to 100 men attacked an Army detachment last Saturday, forcing the offensive, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a recent interview.

The group has been proclaiming itself as a branch of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but authorities dismissed these claims, saying there is no real link between the two and the local gunmen were only joining the ISIS bandwagon.

It is “allied” to a certain Ustadz Sanusi, an Indonesian conduit of the Jemaah Islamiyah who was killed in a raid in Marawi City in November 2012, Padilla said. (John Roson)

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Thousands flee Lanao del Sur clashes

More than 2,000 people have fled Butig town in Lanao del Sur to avoid getting caught in the middle of clashes between government troops and a “local terrorist group,” a disaster official said.

A total of 2,067 evacuees from Butig were recorded in the provincial capital, Marawi City, so far and more are reportedly coming, said Saripada Pacasum, assistant head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.

A “bigger number” of evacuees is also being reported in Masiu, adjacent to Butig, but authorities are still checking the figures, Pacasum said by phone.

Personnel of the PDRRMO and its head, retired military colonel Tatar Boriongan, have gone to Masiu to check on the number and distribute relief goods, he said.

The provincial government has convened a crisis committee meeting and is set to announce the figures Tuesday afternoon or evening, Pacasum said.

Residents evacuated Butig amid clashes that erupted on Saturday, he said.

Those who fled to Marawi, which is a two-hour land travel away, commuted and hitched rides on some passing vehicles.

“Iba-iba ang kuwento kung paano sila nakarating dito, may mga namasahe, meron ding mga sumakay sa vehicles na nag-offer ng ride para lang makaalis sila doon, kasi kababayan naman,” Pacasum said.

“Binobombahan kasi ng helicopters at saka ng artillery ng military ‘yung kalaban, so umalis sila (residents) para hindi maipit,” he said.

Initial field reports indicate that eight barangays of Butig are affected by the fighting.

Members of non-government relief organizations, including the Red Cross, have asked that they be allowed to visit the affected areas, and are still waiting for a go signal from the military, Pacasum said.

“Kinordon kasi ng military so ngayon wala pa talagang ng maka-penetrate sa area,” he said.

“Saturday pa nagsimula ‘yung bakbakan pero before pa, tina-try na hindi mangyari ‘yan. Kaya lang talagang matitigas itong grupo na ito ng local terrorists,” Pacasum said.

Army outpost attacked

Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces spokesman, told reporters in Manila that fighting erupted late Saturday when the group of the “Maute brothers” attacked the Army 51st Infantry Battalion’s detachment in Brgy. Bayabao, Butig.

The group of about 80 to 100 fighters is “allied” to a foreign conduit of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah who was “neutralized” in 2012, Padilla said.

Two soldiers were killed and six were wounded, while unvalidated reports indicate that 20 of Maute’s men died, he said.

Troops operating on the ground were supported by Air Force OV-10 planes that conducted bomb runs on known enemy positions and MG-520 helicopters that provided close air support for maneuvering units, Padilla said.

“The group of the Maute brothers was held at bay, cordoned off by our troops, and are holding their position as of press time,” he said.

Pacasum, citing information from the military, said the “terrorists” are not members of affiliates of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Local terrorists lang, hindi totoo ‘yung sinasabi ng iba na ISIS. Walang ISIS dito. Naga-ISIS-ISIS lang ang mga ‘yan,” he said.

Convoy ambushed

Colonel Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said another fighting erupted between soldiers and a “local terrorist organization” around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.

The fighting occurred in Brgy. Pantara-Bato, Tugaya, also in Lanao del Sur, when an undetermined number of armed men ambushed a military convoy, said Major Filemon Tan, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman.

Tugaya is on the other side of Lake Lanao, facing Masiu and Butig.

The convoy was transporting an armored personnel carrier to Brgy. Alog in Lumbatan town when it was attacked, Tan said.

One soldier was killed in the fighting, which lasted for about 45 minutes, he said.

Two MG-520 helicopters and a platoon of soldiers with two armored vehicles were sent to reinforce the ambushed troops.

Tan said the military is still trying to ascertain who carried out the attack. (John Roson)

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