BULUAN, Maguindanao – Basit Usman, the Filipino bomb-making expert wanted by the United States and the Philippine governments, had been critically wounded during the January 25 Mamasapano operation and is still hiding in Maguindanao, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said here Friday.
“He is hiding, he was seriously wounded and hiding in the mountains of Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu told reporters at the sidelines of the pre-commencement activities of the week-long Sagayan Festival here.
He said the information was revealed to him by a “very reliable source.”
But Mangudadatu said Usman’s exact location was uncertain as of this time as he “moves every hour.”
“He is highly mobile with his followers,” Mangudadatu said.
On January 25, members of the Special Action Force launched an operation aimed at getting Usman and Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.
Marwan was killed in the said operation, along with 44 SAF members, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and several other civilians.
But Usman was able to escape although he had been wounded, Mangudadatu said.
He said Usman was being aided by about 10-15 armed men, who took turns in carrying him around.
“If you see a group of men carrying a wounded man, then that would the group. Please tell authorities about it, do not be afraid,” he added.
An Army intelligence officer, who declined to be named due to the nature of his job, said that Usman was now being tracked by an elite Army unit. He said the fugitive bomber could be heading to the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat to leave mainland Mindanao for either Sulu or Tawi-Tawi.
“Please help save the Mindanao peace process by simply telling authorities about Usman’s presence in your community,” Mangudadatu said in his appeal to the people of Maguindanao.
Mangudadatu meanwhile agreed that Marwan and Usman had been living comfortably in Tukanalipao in Mamasapano before the SAF operation.
But he said villagers apparently did not know that the two were being sought by authorities.
He said based on what he got from the ground, Usman was simply known as “Teng,” and Marwan was “Ibs” to the villagers.