Armed men launch separate attacks in Region 12

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 20 March) – Unidentified heavily armed men launched separate attacks in different parts of Region 12 on Wednesday, leaving one person wounded, officials said.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said  armed men harassed elements of the 46th Infantry Battalion and Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit in Barangay Tual in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat at around 10:45 a.m., triggering a 30-minute gunfight.

He said days before the attack, the local government unit and the military uncovered illegal logging activities in the area that led to the confiscation of 3,000 board feet of Lawaan lumber flitches.

“Apparently, the attack was in retaliation to the stopping by the authorities of illegal logging activities in the area,” Hermoso said.

Nobody was injured on the side of the government security forces, he said, adding the armed men withdrew with their “injured comrades” towards the Daguma Mountain Range.

Reports said the armed men allegedly belong to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Hermoso said they were still checking the information, with elements of the joint government-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities also checking the situation there.

In T’boli, a town in South Cotabato rich in gold deposits and also hosting large multinational agricultural companies, suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels also attacked a police detachment noontime Wednesday.

Dominador Siloterio, T’boli information officer, said some 20 armed men attacked a community police assistance center (Compac) in Barangay Sinolon.

“They were on board a white elf truck and strafed the Compac that left a person wounded,” Siloterio, speaking from the site of the incident, said.

He identified the wounded as Aurelio Dao, a Civilian Volunteer Organization member.

Siloterio said that bomb explosive experts have responded to the scene after one of the two grenades allegedly lobbed at the Compac did not explode.

He said authorities were still investigating if the armed men are members of the NPA.

In a local radio interview, one of the police officers in the Compac, identified only as Herman Golingay, said they fought back when the armed men fired at them.

“But we were forced to withdraw because they were heavily armed,” he said, adding the suspects’ firearms include AK-47, M-14 and Armalte rifles.

The firefight lasted for about 15 minutes, Golingay said.

T’boli hosts pineapple and banana plantations of Dole Philippines, Inc. and Sumifru Philippines Corp., respectively. It also hosts the gold-silver project jointly pursued by Canadian firm Cadan Resources Corp. and local firm Tribal Mining Corp.

The attack in T’boli town came the same day that leadership at the South Cotabato provincial police command changed hands.

Senior Supt. Romeo Ver took over from Senior Supt. Randolf Delfin, who was reportedly reassigned at Camp Crame. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)