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Illegal drug dealer joins rebel group

BULUAN, Maguindanao – A high profile illegal drug trader in this province has reportedly joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and is said to be embarking on recruiting armed followers.

This was confirmed by officials led by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, Maj. Arnel dela Vega of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and provincial police director Senior Supt. Agustin Tello during a recent emergency meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC).

Abdullatip Pendaliday alias “Kumander Grasscutter” is being pursued by authorities for his involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs.

“Grasscutter is now leading a faction of the BIFF and is, in fact, having his own new recruits of armed followers,” Gov. Mangudadatu told the PPOC meeting.

The drug dealer-turned-bandit is said to be joining the BIFF group to avenge the death of his cohorts and family members during previous operations aimed at arresting him.

Several of Pendaliday’s close-in followers including his son and other family members were either killed or captured in recent operations in Datu Paglas and Pandag towns in Maguindanao, said Lt. Col. Cacunoc, head of the Army’s 33rd Battalion who joined most of the raids.

Pendaliday’s affiliation with the BIFF gave credence to government assertions that local terror operations have been partly funded from narcotics money.

Mangudadatu said the outlawed BIFF, which is one of extremist groups in Mindanao linked to the Daesh or ISIS, had suddenly slowed down its religious propaganda “because of Grasscutter’s affiliation,” he told reporters after the PPOC meeting. (Ali Macabalang)