Army taps MILF leaders to track down drug lord

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COTABATO CITY: The Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6th ID) commanding general has ordered its 601st Brigade to again tap Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders to help in tracking down another drug lord who escaped from a raid after wounding three soldiers in a gun fight recently.

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Major. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., 6th ID commanding general, had ordered the 601st Brigade to enlist the help of local MILF commanders in locating Mayogantong Bansil, wanted for large-scale drug trafficking, according to Lt. Col. Markton Abo, 6th ID spokesman.

Abo said Bansil had fled his hideout in the municipality of General S.K. Pendatun after Thursday’s gun fight.

The 601st Brigade has jurisdiction over General S.K. Pendatun and neighboring towns in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Two of Bansil’s men, who are unidentified but described as both in their 30s, were killed by soldiers during the raid when they fired at the law enforcers who were out to serve Bansil a warrant of arrest.

But a follower of Bansil who introduced himself as Ryan was arrested while trying to escape from the scene carrying 40-millimeter shoulder-fired grenade projectiles.

The suspect was said to have identified himself as “Ryan Mayogantong Bansil,” but investigators said it could be an attempt to mislead authorities on the real identity of the main target.

Local officials said the older Mayogantong Bansil is the real drug lord and the main target of the operation.

Galvez said they are coordinating with the MILF’s ceasefire committee that deals with a counterpart group in the government in their bid for a joint operation to get Bansil.

“It would be easier to find Bansil with the help of MILF leaders through a joint effort as provided for by the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF,” he added.

Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, 33rd IB commander, confirmed that three of his men who provided tactical support to the raiding team were injured in the gun fight with Bansil’s group.

“Local policemen aided by personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) were to arrest Bansil but they resisted, provoking a running firefight that lasted for about 30 minutes more or less,” Bunayog said.

Bunayog identified his wounded troops as Private 1st Class Denemar Albani, Cpl. Marcial Duri and Sgt. Aurelio Ferrer.

Bansil is a known cohort of two other drug lords – Wang and Taipeh – reportedly holding out in Kabuling area at the border of Pandag and Datu Paglas towns in Maguindanao.

He is among the top 20 most wanted drug lords listed in the police’s “order of battle.”

Earlier, a large group of MILF members have arrested the followers of suspected drug trafficker – Mokz Masgal – in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Masgal, known as Commander Madrox, eluded arrest by fleeing to the nearby 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh, bringing with him his five followers.

Police are holding 13 of Masgal’s followers.

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