MANILA — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Tuesday vowed to continue arresting and neutralizing ranking Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) until BIFF commander Ameril Umbra Kato is apprehended.
Catapang aired this in the wake of the neutralization of military units of Cmdr. Bisaya during an encounter in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao last Sunday and arrest of Abdulgani Ismael Pagao, BIFF 4th Division deputy commander, at Campo Muslim Barangay Holy Mother Bagua, Cotabato City Monday night.
Aside from this, Pagao is also the financial and spiritual leader of the entire BIFF, whose strength is now placed at less than 200 fighters.
“(The neutralization of these two) shows that the leadership of the BIFF is now on the decline. The next thing we will do is to expedite the location and arrest of Kato,” Catapang said in Filipino.
Pagao did not resist arrest when the law enforcers served the arrest warrant issued by Executive Judge Bansawan Z. Ibrahim.
A loaded caliber .45, caliber M-1911A1 pistol, and a fragmentation grenade were seized from the suspect.
Pagao was turned over to the Criminal Investigation Detection Group for inquest proceedings Tuesday.
As this develops, the AFP chief said that they were still conducting searches against Filipino terror-bomber Basit Usman and hoped to nab the latter before the rainy season in June.
Catapang also classifies the BIFF strength on the decline with these recent arrest and heavy casualties inflicted on them by the military during the month-long focused military operations against them.
The campaign, which started on Feb. 25, so far caused the death of 151 BIFF men, wounding of 65 and capturing of 12 other BIFF men.
Ten soldiers were killed while another 33 were hurt in the campaign.