AFP to hunt down Dawlah Islamiyah fighters after bloody ambush; fallen troops identified

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief, General Romeo Brawner Jr. (File photo) 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Monday, March 18, that it will run after the members of extremist group Dawlah Islamiyah – Hassan Group (DI-Hassan) who were blamed for an ambush in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Maguindanao del Sur which killed four Philippine Army (PA) personnel.

“The AFP vows to hunt down the perpetrators and neutralize these ruthless killers to finally put a stop to their violent acts that disrupt peace and stability in the region,” AFP Chief, General Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

The military chief condoled with the families and loved ones left behind by the slain soldiers, who were members of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID). 

Col. Louie Dema-ala, PA spokesperson, identified the fallen troops as Private Marvin Dumaguing, Private Jessie James Corpuz, Private First Class Carl Araña, and Corporal Creszaldy Espartero.

Dumaguing, Corpuz, and Araña were members of the 40th Infantry Battalion while Espartero belonged to the 3rd Cavalry Armor Division, all under the 601st Infantry Brigade, 6ID.

According to a military report, the troops wearing plain clothes were heading back to their patrol base on board a civilian vehicle after buying supplies for "iftar" when around 10 DI fighters ambushed them near a residential area in Barangay Tuayan 1 around 9:40 a.m. on Sunday, March 17, which is around one to two kilometers away from their base in in Sitio Bagurot, Barangay Mother Tuayan.

Iftar refers to the fast-breaking evening meal of Muslims during Ramadan. The soldiers were supposed to distribute the food supplies to the Muslim civilians that were fasting near their patrol base.

“We assure the Filipinos that your Armed Forces is firm on its resolve to perform our mandate of protecting the people and the state,” Brawner said.

Army chief, Lt. Gen. Roy Galido earlier condemned the attack on the troops which he described as “senseless, treacherous, and heinous.”

“The Army is committed to ensuring that the perpetrators face the full consequences of their actions and that justice will be served for the victims and their families,” Galido said. 

The bodies of the four soldiers were brought to the mortuary of 6ID at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao del Norte for the wake.

The DI has been the subject of intense military offensives in the previous months, especially after being implicated in the bombing at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur in December last year. The incident claimed the lives of four people and injured 50 others.

In February, six soldiers and three DI members died in a pursuit operation in Munai, Lanao del Norte against those believed to be responsible in the MSU bombing. 

Prior to this, 18 DI fighters had been killed in various encounters with the military since the MSU blast.

Asked if the most recent ambush could be a form of retaliation, Dema-ala responded: "That is one of the considerations that we are looking at."