High-powered guns, explosives seized in Maguindanao

DATU ANGGAL MIDTIMBANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/17 May) – Government troops seized Friday several high-powered firearms and explosives from two groups who were engaged in a gunfight starting Tuesday over the results of the election in Talitay, Maguindanao.

Lt. Col. Crisaldo Fernandez, commander of the 90th Infantry Battalion covering Talitay town, said his unit moved to pacify the two warring groups.

Fernandez said his troops made it appear that they had left but returned early morning on Friday to the surprise of one of the armed groups, which fled the area, some on bancas, leaving their armaments behind.

Firearms and explosives seized from armed men reportedly backed by politicians in Talitay, Maguindanao are shown to reporters at the 90th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Maguindanao on Friday, 17 May 2019. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

Among the seized firearms were five M-16 rifles, four M-653 rifles, three Garand rifles, four M-203 grenade launchers, one shotgun, one carbine rifle, one KG-9 automatic rifle, two Thompson rifles, two RPG launchers, and a caliber 50 sniper rifle.

The explosives included assorted mortars and four hand grenades.

Ammunition for various firearms were also seized.

The military added they recovered illegal drugs paraphernalia, election campaign T-Shirts and bandoliers.

Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said the clash started in Sitio Sultan, Barangay Kilalan in Talitay on Tuesday and spread to the nearby village of Bentan, forcing some civilians to flee.

Encinas said the groups involved were men of the brothers Abdulwahab and Montasir Sabal, who both won as mayor and vice mayor of Talitay, respectively, and those of Sedik Ameril, former assemblyman of the abolished Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Sabals’ group of armed men was reportedly led by a certain “Kalbo” while that of Ameril was led by Mike Sitti.

Montasir, the elder brother, was the elected mayor in 2016 while Abdulwahab was his vice mayor. But both brothers went into hiding when they were included in the narco list.

Abdulwahab later resurfaced and cleared his name, and thus succeeded his brother on the vacated mayoral post.

Ameril was also in the narco list, the reason why he is also in hiding.

Encinas said that what apparently triggered the feud is rooted on an unfulfilled agreement between Abdulwahab and Sedik.

Both parties, he said, agreed that to establish a harmonious relationship between them, Abdulwahab must junk Montasir so Ameril’s sister Suraida would win in the vice mayoral race in Talitay.

Encinas said that based on information they gathered in their investigation, the Sabal brothers dumped Suraida in the last minute. Abdulwahab thus backed his elder brother despite the funds contributed by Sedik to the younger Sabal’s campaign.

Montasir garnered 2,350 votes in the vice mayoral race, while Suraida Ameril was only in third place with 1,537 votes.

Col. Wilbur Mamawag, commander of the Army’s 603rd Brigade said they were looking for more firearms.

Joint Task Force Central commander, Major General Cirilito Sobejana commended the joint efforts of his troops and local government units which enabled the the displaced residents to return to their homes. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)