Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NCotabato execs urged to raise bounty vs jail attackers

KIDAPAWAN CITY - Local sectors today urged North Cotabato Gov. Lala TaliƱo Mendoza and the city mayor to raise a bounty for the gunmen behind Sunday night’s bloody attempt to rescue detained Moro guerilla Datucan Samad from the city jail.

Mendoza, head of the Inter-Agency Provincial Peace and Order Council, already asked North Cotabato’s provincial police office to immediately relieve city police director, Superintendent Chino Mamburam, for his failure to impose measures that could have effectively pre-empted the attack.

Three people were killed, one of them a responding Red Cross volunteer named Benny Balmediano, and 16 others were injured in Sunday night’s attempt by followers of Samad, armed with assault rifles and shoulder-fire B-40 anti-tank rockets, to spring him from the city jail.

Prior warnings

Samad, who is facing cases of multiple murders, highway robberies with homicides, cattle rustlings, extortion, and large-scale propagation of Marijuana plants, is also known as “Commander Lastikman” among his followers.

“We have learned that prior to the incident, the city police repeatedly received feedback from patriotic sources and concerned citizens warning of a plan to rescue this Lastikman and yet there was no decisive action taken to prevent it from happening,” Mendoza told reporters.

The Army already deployed dozens of non-uniformed operatives in strategic spots and surrounding towns to help the North Cotabato provincial police locate the whereabouts of the gunmen.

Major Gen, Rey Ardo, commander of Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said intelligence operatives from the 57th Infantry Battalion and the 602nd Brigade have also been tasked to help the Kidapawan City police determine the identities of the gunmen to hasten the filing of criminal charges against them.

The suspects have scampered to different directions after failing to breach the gates of the detention facility.

Most of the attackers were seen fleeing towards Barangay Nuwangan, carrying companions who were wounded when personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and policemen engaged them in running firefights.

Ardo said their efforts to help the police is in close coordination with the office of Major Gen. Ariel Bernardo, chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, which deals with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, through his MILF counterpart, Said Sheik.

The spokesman of the MILF, Von Al-Haq, denied any involvement of their fighters in the Kidapawan City jail attack.
Al-Haq said Samad is not in the roster of MILF members either.

Well planned

Samad has been implicated in the murder of some 30 people in Pikit and surrounding towns.

He and his men have also been tagged in dozens of highway robberies, which happened in the past five years along the isolated stretches of the Cotabato-Davao Highway traversing the adjoining Pikit, Aleosan, Pagalungan and Montawal towns at the boundary of North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.

Chief Inspector Elmer Guevarra of the North Cotabato provincial Criminal Investigation and Detection Team (CIDT) told reporters the attack was well coordinated and carefully planned.

The attackers even created diversions using improvised explosive devices fashioned from live 81 MM mortar projectiles with remote controlled blasting mechanisms.

Gueverra said the gunmen tried to surprise the guards of the city jail by blasting shoulder-fire rocket-propelled grenades on its front ground, but guards on duty engaged them in a firefight to prevent them from closing in.

The gunmen fled after sensing they could get inside the city jail, but opened fire at buildings and a videoke pub around the city jail and set off bombs as they escaped.

Some of the gunmen wore black Army Ranger combat uniforms and shiny boots.
The Philippine Star
February 21, 2012 12:38 PM

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