Hostage killed in crossfire in Siocon

ZAMBOANGA CITY  (MindaNews / 03 June) — A civilian taken hostage by a still unidentified armed group was killed in a crossfire with government forces in the town of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte early Saturday. Two other hostages were rescued by government troops.

Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula Director Billy Beltran said the law enforcement effort conducted by a combined team of police and military is part of the continuing operation following an encounter with the same armed group in the neighboring town of Sirawai on May 30.

“The armed men took three terrified civilians as their human shields when pursued by our troops,” he said.

Zamboanga del Norte Police Director Edwin Buenaventura Wagan said two of the victims were rescued by the troops but “unfortunately, one of the hostaged victims was killed in the crossfire.”

Wagan identified the slain hostage as Ronie Tangupan and the rescued victims as  Marjun Alano, 29, and Carlo Carino, 23.

He said they are still checking if the group is affiliated with the Moro rebels in the area or the Abu Sayyaf Group.

“As of this time, there is no direct link between this group and the Abu Sayyaf group,” he said.

Wagan said the conflict “stems from political, rido (family feud), and land disputes.”

On Friday evening, police received information from residents of Riconalla about the presence of armed men and a hostage-taking.

Wagan said the policemen and military troops immediately proceeded to the area to verify the report.

Along the way, the troops met around 10 families evacuating from their residence due to fear. The evacuees proceeded to the barangay hall of barangay Riconalla where barangays officials were waiting, he said.

At about 4:30 in the morning, operating troops were fired upon by the armed men.

The firefight lasted for about five minutes with no casualty reported on the government side, he said, adding  “this is where the armed men took the three civilians.”

A running gunbattle ensued between the pursuing troops and the lawless elements until the “armed men again attempted to hostage other two civilians identified as Edison Maquilang and Joseph Pangaral but were able to escape and were rescued by the blocking troops in the area,” Wagan said.

He said coordination has been made with the local government units in the area to provide necessary assistance to the evacuees. (Darwin Wally T. Wee / MindaNews)