ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat (PNA)–Police and military forces are closing in on a group of bandits, former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in the village of Bual here as government forces intensified their manhunt against the bandit leader Sultan Dimas alias “Com-mander Dragon”.
The pursuit operation entered its third day in Sitio Mantisao, Barangay Bual, Senior Supt. Raul Supiter, Sultan Kudarat police provincial director said on Saturday.
Supiter said 11 bandits have been killed during the operation conducted jointly by Sultan Kudarat police provicial public safety battalion and 33rd Infantry Battalion against “Com-mander Dragon”, leader of a 30-strong armed bandits responsible in the series of atrocities in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao.
“The group’s location has been pinpointed and the operation is focused in one community,” Supiter said.
Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunog, 33rd IB chief, told reporters Commander Dimas’ forces were getting reinforcement from other armed groups operating in the hinterlands of Isulan.
Cabunoc said police and the military were to serve warrants against Commander Dragon for murder and multiple mur-der charges on Thursday.
But the bandit group opened fire on approaching lawmen, triggering a fierce firefight at 6:00 a.m. The fighting left 11 bandits dead and the rest fled deep into the forest.
Commander Dragon was a former member of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who turned into banditry.
Due to the strength of the armed group, the Army had to fire artillery against the suspects backed by two Air Force helicopter gunships.
One soldier, identified as Sgt. Davides Enario, was injured in the clash.
Both Supiter and Ca-bunoc said the bandit group suffered more than 11 fata-lities, which were still subject for validation and verification.
In the meantime, the Army put up blocking force in areas where the bandits could escape, hostage civilians and flee.
A dozen families have fled to safer grounds and the local government of Isulan is attending to their needs, Supiter said.