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Local sectors helping locate Marawi City bombers

COTABATO CITY — The police and Army reported on Tuesday that information about the backgrounds of the two Maranao suspects in Sunday’s deadly bombing of a gymnasium in Marawi City are freely coming in, fed confidentially by vigilant residents of Lanao del Sur, among them moderate Islamic missionaries.

Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, director of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and  Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, separately told reporters Tuesday that they are grateful to tipsters helping the Lanao del Sur Provincial Police Office and the 103rd Infantry Brigade locate the people responsible for the bombing.

Two members of the Dawlah Islamiya, Arseni Lumen Membisa and Wahab Sandigan Macabayao, are now subject of an extensive joint police-military manhunt assisted by the office of Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr.

Membisa and Macabayao were reported to have immediately fled to a town at the border of Maguindanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur after setting off a powerful improvised explosive device inside the Dimaporo gymnasium at the MSU campus in Marawi City, amid a Sunday prayer rite by some 60 Catholic worshipers.

Four Catholics, Junrey Barbante, Evangeline Aromin, Janine Arenas and Riza Daniel, were killed in the explosion that left more than 30 others injured.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said on Tuesday that intelligence agents from units under 6th ID had been mobilized to guard against the possible escape of Membisa and Macabayao to the adjoining provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, or Cotabato that have towns close to Lanao del Sur.

“Our intelligence activities are supported by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front,” said Rillera who, as 6th ID commander, has jurisdiction over Maguindanao del Norte and Cotabato provinces.

Members of different multi-sector municipal peace and order councils in Lanao del Sur told reporters Tuesday that Membisa and Macabayao were former henchmen of the slain siblings Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute, founders of the long decimated Maute terror group that laid siege to about a dozen barangays in Marawi City from May