A group of young members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) under Ameril Umbrakato are reportedly in Metro Manila for their “test mission”, which is to conduct bombings on select targets similar to the recent blasts in Cagayan De Oro and Cotabato City that killed more than a dozen people.
According to Saji Mukamad Abdul, one of the few young men who were trained by the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to detonate improvised explosive devices, the order given to them was to set the foundation for a Jihad or holy war.
“Ang sinabi sa amin sir ay tatapusin lang namin ang isang test mission para sa isang jihad [We were told to accomplish one test mission for a Jihad],” Abdul told The Manila Times.
The Times managed to get in touch with the 18-year-old Abdul through Watamama Kadil, also a BIFF recruit. Kadil said that some of the young recruits who have finished their bomb training were deployed to Metro Manila to carry out “test missions.”
Without saying whether he is one of the recruits tapped for the mission in Metro Manila, Abdul, a native of Lanao Del Sur, said that they were directed to bomb vital utilities like the towers and power lines of the National Power Corporation and telecommunications firms Smart and Globe.
The bombing that occurred last week in Cagayan De Oro City that killed at least eight people and wounded 48 others was among the continuing attacks on civilian populace carried out by the young BIFF recruits.
Abdul further claimed that the bombing missions were upon the orders of JI operative Abdul Basit Usman, who directed all fresh graduates of the BIFF training camp in Lanao Del Norte to assemble in an undisclosed place where they planned their “test missions” in Mindanao.
Usman is a Pakistani-trained militant who joined the al-Qaeda-linked JI as a bomb specialist, according to the information from the two sources, who confirmed that young BIFF members have been trained by Usman on how to prepare and explode an improvised explosive device (IED) with a timer.
Kadil also said there were even members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who insisted that the young recruits are not members of the BIFF but of the MILF.
“Ito daw ay dahil si Usman ang nagturo sa amin kung papaano magpasabog ng bomba sa tamang oras at pamamaraan [It is for the reason that we were trained by Usman that we should consider ourselves not BIFF members but the MILF],” he further stressed.
An asset of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) from Maguindanao province, who refused to be identified, claimed that they received raw information from the Muslim community that Usman was with some MILF commanders and three bearded Arab-looking personalities who passed along Liguasan Marsh in Barangay Kabuntalan in Maguindanao.
Intelligence reports said the group was spotted along a route connecting the Marsh with Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat late Saturday evening with some 20 fully-armed escorts.
But other military sources said they were still evaluating the report as they expressed the belief that the group that was sighted in Barangay Kabuntalan was Umbrakato’s.
“We already learned of the presence of the members of the Jemaah Islamiyah who were also sighted in Barangay Bagras in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat, where the MILF has coddled them and so do the BIFF. But we don’t know if they were planning an attack although we are ready for them,” said an official of 74th Infantry Battalion who requested not to be named.
Liguasan Marsh spans the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat which are along the boundaries of
General Santos City, Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte.
It also connects to the provinces of Zamboanga, Jolo and Sulu with open access called the Philippine back door to Sabah, Malaysia and Singapore.
It was further learned that the JI terror cell and Muslim rebels were using a Volvo speed boat, a two to four engine fast craft, in going to and from Malaysia.
Central Mindanao has been placed under triple alert status following reports of the presence of the armed group.
The military is also verifying reports that the MILF still has a connection with the group of Umbrakato and Usman and are planning to launch wide scale hostilities and atrocities.
Police Chief Superintendent Charles Calima, the Police Regional Office 12 director, said all threats are being closely monitored.
“But we are always on our toes to combat against these rebel groups whoever they are,” he said.
‘Bomber for hire’
On Tuesday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) presented a different theory and blamed the Cotabato City explosion on a so-called “bomber for hire” group.
PNP Public Information chief, Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said this is among the possible angles being pursued by their investigators following Monday’s explosion.
“There’s an emerging modus operandi in the area and that this could be the handiwork of a ‘bomber for hire’ is one of the possibilities being explored by our investigators in the area,” Sindac told reporters in Camp Crame.
But the police official quickly said that they are also not discounting the possibility that the powerful explosion in Cotabato City Monday afternoon was also a possible ‘terrorist attack’.
The explosion also occurred as the SUV carrying City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi was passing by Sinsuat Avenue, at around 4:30 p.m. Monday, killing two of her police security escorts.
“This could be personal, this could be political . . . but we’re not discounting terrorist angle, investigation are still on-going,” Sindac said.
The PNP official added that the explosion in Cotabato City has no connection with the global terror threat alert issued by the US government over the weekend.
PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima has already directed all Mindanao-based police units to step-up their intelligence gathering and security measures in their respective areas.
“Step-up intelligence and target-hardening efforts in their respective areas, particularly on soft targets like commercial areas and such places of convergence and to fully employ the 3-tiered defense system,” Purisima said in his directive.
The PNP chief was also summoned to Malacañang for a security cluster meeting called by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd.