Monday, December 21, 2009

Ampatuans entrust arsenal to MILF leader

By John Unson (The Philippine Star) Updated December 21, 2009 12:00 AM

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao, Philippines — The Ampatuans have entrusted their arsenal for safekeeping to a Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander related to patriarch Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. after the military seized more than 800 of the clan’s firearms, according to relatives.

A relative of Ampatuan Sr. said many of his firearms were brought out of Shariff Aguak immediately after the Nov. 26 arrest of his son, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

“The old man (Ampatuan Sr.) has very strong connections with the police and the military before the incident so there was really no problem for him building a very strong private militia,” said an Ampatuan who is a hadji, one that has gone on pilgrimage to Mecca.

A source who asked not to be named said the firearms seized by soldiers and policemen in Shariff Aguak and nearby towns are not even half of the Ampatuan arsenal.

“Talks have been circulating that they have turned over hundreds to certain rebel groups whose leaders are related to them,” the source said.

Ampatuan Sr. is a relative of Adan Abdullah, commander of the MILF 106th Base Command.

Local sectors in Maguin-danao are convinced the Ampatuans’ acquisition of a huge ammunition supply was connected with the mysterious fire that razed a military ammunition depot inside Camp Siongco in Maguindanao almost two years ago.

At the time, the Army 6th Infantry Division Headquarters Service Battalion commanding officer prevented radio reporter Loreto Rosario of Catholic station dxND from covering the dawn fire that destroyed the military ammunition storage facility atop a hill inside Camp Siongco.

About a year before the fire, the ammunition depot’s caretaker, an Army major, was relieved from his post due to pilferage of ammunition under his custody.

The officer’s subordinates found dozens of ammunition and empty bullet boxes scattered along a trail leading to an open window in one of the warehouses to a fence at the rear of the building.

Col. Julieto Ando, who was 6th ID spokesman when the fire hit the ammunition depot, told reporters then military investigators believe that rodents or a snake could have cause the fire.

Just months after a big fire destroyed the ammunition depot, a fire razed the armory of the Maguindanao police in Shariff Aguak.

Police officials told investigators dozens of firearms and thousands of ammunition for assault rifles were destroyed in the fire.

However, an official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said not a single burnt metal gun part was found at the scene.

“It also appeared that there seemed a premeditated arson there,” said the source.

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http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=534578&publicationSubCategoryId=63

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