By Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Five suspected Filipino militants with the local the Islamic State affiliate who were killed last week in an air strike and offensive by government forces in the southern Philippines were plotting attacks during Ramadan, the military said Monday.
The Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) said eight improvised bombs were seized during the military operation in Pagalungan, a town in Maguindanao province. The operation, which took place on March 21, foiled the bombings that the group allegedly was planning in Mindanao, the country’s southern third, whose population is largely Muslim.
“We have prevented their planned bombings targeting innocent civilians, (attempt to) create fear and sabotage peace during Ramadan,” Col. Donald Gumiran, commander of the 602nd Brigade, said in a statement.
After making sure the planned bombings were stopped, Gumiran said the military ceased its operations against the militants in the area to allow the people to celebrate Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting. The offensive targeted a suspected lair of the Daulah Islamiyah (DI), the Filipino name for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
It was not clear why the attack was kept under wraps until Monday. The military did not immediately respond to calls by BenarNews.
Lt. Col. Dennis Almorato, 6th ID spokesman, said an A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft fired rockets at the enemy encampment. Ground troops, meanwhile, fought a one-hour gun battle with the group, leading to the enemy casualties.
Almorato said troops at the camp recovered eight improvised bombs “which were ready to be planted and detonated” by the group.
Almorato said the operation was conducted based on information provided by two informants.
Citing information from the informants, Almorato said DI members apparently were planning to detonate the IEDs at populated areas in Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last Wednesday.
Materials used in the manufacture of IEDs, a .45-caliber pistol and Garand rifle ammunition were found at the lair, Almorato said.
The DI group is composed mostly of militants belonging to a faction from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a splinter group from the ex-separatist force Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which controls an autonomous region in the south.