By John Unson
LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines — Islamic militants have been hiding in Mount Cararao, not in Buldon town in Maguindanao, long before the May 23 outbreak of the conflict in Marawi City, officials said early Saturday.
Mount Cararao, a vast swath of highland fields with scattered rainforests, separates the provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who belong to the Iranun tribe said on Saturday morning that the militants are nowhere near Buldon, which is located in the first district of Maguindanao.
Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said on Saturday that the municipal police office in Buldon has not reported of any presence of Maute terrorists in the municipality.
“Possibly they are in Mount Cararao which is at the border of Butig, Lanao del Sur and Buldon, Maguindanao,” Tello said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had said in a speech at the Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters in Davao City Friday that he is apprehensive of a spillover of the hostilities in Marawi City to Buldon owing to the presence there of unidentified armed men.
He said he had thought of lifting martial law in Mindanao, which is to last until December 31, but changed his mind due to the security issues besetting Buldon.
Members of the Buldon municipal police office told reporters on Saturday that it is in Mount Cararao where suspected members of the Maute terror group were spotted.
An Iranun farmer, Limon Mandiga Botari, said he is doubtful the terrorists would try to get close to Buldon.
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