Arms seized from lair of BIFF-linked group

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    GOVERNMENT troops seized high-powered firearms yesterday in Maguindanao after raiding the lair of kidnappers linked to the terror group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

    Soldiers from the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion swooped down on the lair of the lawless group, under Lakim Esmael alias under Mac4, in Barangay Bulod in General Salipada K. Pendatun at past 2 a.m. based on a report provided by an informant.

    Lt. Col. Dingdong Atilano, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said Esmael’s group is involved in criminal activities like kidnapping, extortion, and gun-for-hire in Central Mindanao.

    Esmael is also involved in illegal drugs trade in the province, said Lt. Col. Alaric delos Santos, spokesman of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City.

    Atilano said Esmael and his men traded gunfire with the soldiers for at least 15 minutes, after which they withdrew. No one was reported killed or injured on the military side.

    Atilano said Esmael was “most likely there (during the the encounter) but was able to escape.”

    During clearing operations, soldiers recovered a rocket-propelled grenade, a Barrett rifle, an M79 grenade launcher, an M14 rifle, two M16 rifles, four AR16 rifles, a sub machine-gun, and other war materiel.

    Atilano said Esmael’s group was encountered by soldiers in Sultan sa Barongis town, also in Maguindanao, last Sunday. Soldiers arrested two of Esmael’s men and recovered three rifles after the clash.

    “They withdrew to SK Pendatun and hid there. But a civilian informed us about the presence of the armed group in the area so our soldiers conducted operation against them this morning. They are members of an armed lawless group that has an alliance with the BIFF,” said Atilano.