By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Security forces have foiled another alleged plot to bomb urban centers in Central Mindanao after seizing improvised bombs in a village in Maguindanao on Saturday, according to an Army official.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion chief, said his unit led the counter-terror raid at Sitio Pagalad, Barangay Damakling in Paglat town, following a tip about the presence of bombs and suspected terrorists in the area.
He said the informant provided photos showing known terrorist bombers Ustadz Yasser Saligan and Sheik Makakena handling a bomb. The suspects have been under surveillance since late 2018, he added.
Troops from the 33rd IB, the 4th Special Action Battalion, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and the provincial police raided the sitio, a known “terrorist lair,” at around 3 a.m. on Saturday, he said.
Five men were arrested, and four improvised bombs and three .45 caliber pistols were recovered, Cabunoc said.
He said Shiek Makakena and Ustadz Yasser eluded arrest by jumping into the murky water of the Liguasan Marsh as the troops approached.
Cabunoc believed the explosives with triggering devices were meant for urban terror use in nearby Sultan Kudarat where deadly bombings happened last year.
Saturday’s raid followed the pre-dawn raid by a team of military intelligence agents at Barangay Tatak on the border of Rajah Buayan and two other Maguindanao towns against local militants harboring foreign bomb-making experts.
Sources said the raiding team thought their targets were fewer, only to be surprised that more than 80 heavily armed men put up a five-hour fight that resulted in the killing of an Army sergeant and the wounding of a Marine captain.
Four of the terrorists were killed, including Abu Hud Zain, a Singaporean, and Abdulrahid Ruhmisanti, an Indonesian.
Reports reaching Manila Bulletin said the Marine captain, who was wounded in the chin and neck, and his men ran out of rifle rounds, and were left with just handguns.
They said the outnumbered team recovered improvised bombs and other terror materials believed to be used in urban centers during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
On Dec. 31, two improvised bombs were planted in a mall here, one of which was recovered and the other exploded near the mall’s gate, killing two civilians and wounding more than 30 others. The deadly attack was believed to be “retaliation” for the Dec. 22 military raid.