COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 22 June) – A police law enforcement operation early Wednesday turned ugly when persons wanted with warrants resisted arrest and traded shots with lawmen in Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao.
Brig. Gen. Arthur Cabalona, police director of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said police forces were to serve warrants of arrest against two wanted persons identified as Turkey Utto Latip, wanted for frustrated murder, and Katindig Mustapha, who was facing charges for robbery with homicide.
“These two and their armed followers opened fire on our troops that triggered a shootout,” Cabalona said at the site of the 4 a.m. police operation.
One of the personnel of Regional Mobile Force Battalion-14 was wounded, prompting a burst of gunfire after the incident.
Cabalona said the two were among the seven persons found dead in the encounter site in Barangay Mileb in the municipality of Rajah Buayan.
He said they seized nine high-powered firearms apparently from the seven dead persons.
“We are determining if these persons are affiliated with the existing threat groups in Maguindanao,” Cabalona said.
Lt. Col. Error Melgarejo, officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (CIDG-BAR), said they have been following the movement of this group for four months prior to today’s dawn operation.
“The suspects have been involved in several criminal incidents, including robbery and gun-for-hire activities,” he said.
Mayor Yacob “Jack” Ampatuan said Katindig Mustapha was also involved in the 2015 Mamasapano encounter that killed 44 troops of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police. He was likewise involved in the killing and torching of one individual in the same town few years ago, Ampatuan added.
“The area of operation has been normalized now. No more tension as the conflict had not involved clan or rebel group affiliation,” Ampatuan said.
Four suspects who survived the clash were arrested and are now under investigation in the CIDG-BAR office in Cotabato City. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)