SULTAN NAGA DIMAPORO, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews) – Two soldiers were killed while four others were injured in an ambush along the national highway in Barangay Payong at around 10:30 Sunday morning, a few hundred meters from populated areas.
The victims were on board an Army KM truck en route to Malabang in Lanao del Sur when fired at from a vantage position from the forested area across the road, just as the vehicle was negotiating a curb. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, who was in another vehicle, was spared.
Residents living nearby said the firing did not take long.
An Army officer who requested not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media, gave the number of soldiers killed and wounded. He said the perpetrators used M-16 firearms.
The troops from the 5th infantry Battalion were reportedly on their way to Malabang in Lanao del Sur from their camp in Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.
Barangay captain Gapur Mindalanao, who rushed to the scene from a neighboring village, said the ambushed vehicle provided security for Lt. Col. Gaerlan.
He said it was the first time an ambush occurred in the area. The armed men, he said, must have come from another area.
The Army officer blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the ambush. He said the perpetrators are likely “dayo” (from another place).
MILF spokesperson Von al Haq told MindaNews by telephone Sunday night that he was still awaiting “accurate report.”
“Hindi ako makakuha ng accurate report. Still validating. Since yesterday (Saturday), may order na ceasefire ang general staff through the Chief of Staff of the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces), to maintain defensive position at hindi atake at ambush, for the sake of peace.”
Sunday’s ambush which the military blamed on the MILF, has brought to 29 the number of soldiers killed in a span of a week allegedly by the MILF: 19 in Basilan; 8 in the two alleged ambush incidents in Zamboanga Sibugay on Thursday and two in Lanao del Norte Sunday.
An ambush of rubber tappers and a militiaman in Sumisip, Basilan at around 5:30 a.. Sunday that left five persons dead and eight others injured was also blamed on the MILF. Al Haq denied the allegations.
MindaNews chanced upon a convoy of two armored personnel carriers, two military trucks and a pick-up vehicle pulling out of this barangay shortly before 2 p.m.
The Army officer left behind here said the troops were conducting hot pursuit operations. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)