SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (Mindanews/ 23 January) – A police operation to arrest a barangay captain and followers at 3 a.m. on Saturday turned bloody after the subjects of the arrest warrant resisted, resulting to a five-hour firefight that killed 13 persons including a police officer.
Reports from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said that at about 3 a.m. Saturday, while they were about to serve the warrant of arrest against Barangay Limbo chair Pendatun Kato Talusan and his brothers Datu Abdullah Kato Talusan and Bembi Talusan and their followers, a volley of fire greeted them, hitting the neck of a police officer who later expired. Three other police officers were wounded and rushed to the Cotabato Sanitarium here.
The three Talusans were also killed, along with nine of their followers.
Due to the armed resistance, additional troops and tanks later were deployed to reinforce and surround the Talusans who had snipers ready for the assault team.
At around 7 a.m., rapid bursts of gunfire could be heard when an assault team, aided by tanks firing .50 caliber machine guns and a blocking force, managed to penetrate the target house less than 50 meters from the national highway.
A woman and a child rushed out of the house, seemingly in trauma, while an old man came out handcuffed and assisted by a policeman.
When the smoke cleared, a dozen of men inside the target house of the Talusans were seen lying on the ground, dead.
The exchange of gunfire was heard not only in Sultan Kudarat town but also in Cotabato City, forcing residents to stay home.
A portion of the national highway connecting Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat was temporarily closed due its proximity to the battle area.
In a report shared by CIDG to reporters, the dawn operation was dubbed as Oplan Pagtutugis, Oplan Salikop and Paglalansag Omega.
Armed with warrant of arrest and search warrant from the local courts, the police mounted the operation to arrest the Talusans who were facing charges of double frustrated murder, robbery and homicide.
The arrest warrant was signed by Judge Kasan Abdulrakman of the Retional Trial Court Branch 27 in Cotabato City and the search warrant for violating RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, was issued by Judge Edwin Boncavil, Acting Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 19 in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province.
The CIDG report said the Talusan group’s sub-leader Abdullah Talusan and its followers are a notorious group involved in a series of shooting incidents in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City, allegedly targeting police and army personnel.
The group is also said to be engaged in illegal drugs trading, carnappping, robbery and extortion.
The family of the slain suspects has not issued a statement to the media on the allegations. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)