ILIGAN CITY (Mindanews/13 July) – A soldier was killed while seven others were wounded in an ambush along the national highway in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte at around 7:40 a.m. Monday.
Col. Gilbert I. Gapay Commanding Officer of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade based in Ditucalan here said a squad of the 42nd Company of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion on board a six-by-six truck was on its way to Pantar for “admin rotation patrol” when ambushed by an undetermined number of armed men in Barangay Calanganan.
“The troops were able to return fire. Two of the armed men were also wounded,” he said.
The wounded troops were rushed to hospitals in neighboring Iligan City for treatment. The body of the soldier was also brought to Iligan.
Gapay said troops are still on hot pursuit against the armed group who withdrew towards the interior part of Pantar.
The national highway was closed for traffic for at least an hour while the firefight lasted for 15 minutes, he said.
The military and the Philippine National Police had earlier established a buffer zone inside Pantar to prevent further bloodshed caused by a rido (clan feud) and political dispute, Gapay added.
Gapay said they are looking at three possible motives behind the ambush: that this was perpetrated by kidnappers; due to rido; or the arrest in Marawi City last Friday of eight alleged members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who allegedly identified themselves as operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Gapay said further investigation is needed to determine who the perpetrators are.
Fr. Teresito Soganub, Vicar-General of the Prelature of Marawi told MindaNews in a telephone interview that the ambush caused massive traffic along the highway between Iligan and Marawi cities.
Soganub said he was at the terminal in Marawi City shortly before 8 a.m. to board a passenger van for Iligan City but drivers declined to leave because of the ambush.
When the vans finally moved, they got stuck in traffic for about two hours. He said there was a long queue of vehicles, “about two kilometers long” along the highway, portions of which were one-lane only due to repairs.
Soganub said the six-by-six truck that was ambushed was on the left lane from Iligan City, on a portion that had drilled holes, apparently in preparation for bulldozing. He said the windshield bore several gunshot wounds, indicating the perpetrators may have ambushed them frontally.
“Bold and daring,” Soganub said.
He said he saw many Army vehicles, armored personnel carriers and the vehicles of the International Monitoring Team en route to Iligan City, a 40-minute ride from Marawi on ordinary days. Soganub said they arrived in Iligan at around 10 a.m. (Richel V. Umel / with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)