Arroyo: Get ‘bomber’ Basit Usman
MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the military to get Basit Usman, whom she blamed for recent bomb attacks in Central Mindanao, as she vowed no let up in the military’s counterterrorism campaign.
Arroyo said Usman works with the group of Ameril Umbra Kato, one of three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders wanted by government for allegedly leading attacks on civilian communities in Central Mindanao in August 2008.
Authorities have also identified Usman as an MILF member.
“According to our intelligence reports, some rogue elements of the MILF under Basit Usman, who belongs to the Kato group…are the perpetrators of the atrocities,” Arroyo said in an interview with Bombo Radyo in Bukidnon province.
“We have to run after Basit Usman,” she said in the interview, aired in Manila by state-run radio station dzRB.
On New Year’s Eve, at least three people were killed in an explosion in General Santos City. Three days later, another explosion went off in Tacurong City.
But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied Usman is a member of their organization.
Kabalu said the government was linking Usman to the bombings to “pin down” Kato, who is said to have led attacks on North Cotabato province and carries a P10-million bounty for his capture.
The two other wanted MILF commanders — Abdurahman Macapaar alias Bravo and Aleem Pangalian — are blamed for raids on Lanao del Norte communities. The government has put up a P10-million bounty for Macapaar and P5 million for Pangalian.
Kabalu said it was Usman’s brother who was an MILF member who went missing several years back after being accosted by police operatives.
“If we will speculate, he [Usman] is doing this to avenge his brother,” Kabalu said in a phone interview.
“With these allegations against Usman, the government is trying to pin down Kato,” he added.
Aside from the so-called “rogue” MILF commanders, the military campaign in the south also targets the Abu Sayyaf group.
“Our order for the AFP, for the military, is hit hard on the ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group], [apply the] full force of the law,” Arroyo said.
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