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Warehouse serves as Ampatuan arms depot



MARK D. MERUEÑAS, GMANews.TV 12/05/2009 | 05:01 PM

Following a tip from a "concerned citizen," soldiers on Saturday raided a warehouse beside a National Food Authority (NFA) establishment in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, where they found stockpiles of weapons believed to be owned by the Ampatuans.

The warehouse was filled with an unusual inventory: at least two armored vehicles, three police mobile patrol cars, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, among others.

Just outside the warehouse, authorities discovered freshly dug soil and unearthed M16 assault rifles and 10 cases of magazines.

"May nagsabi sa amin na concerned citizen na may nakatago dito at iyon na-discover nga natin ito... nung pinasok natin kanina 'to nakakandado," said Lt. Col. Michael Samson, public affairs officer of the Philippine Army in Shariff Aguak, in a radio interview.

(A concerned citizen told us that something is being hidden there and that's when we discovered...when we went in it was locked.)

An expired license and a permit to carry firearms were also recovered. Authorities have yet to determine the owner of the stash of weaponry and armored vehicles, but an ammunition box found inside the warehouse bore the name of Sajid Ampatuan, son of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., who briefly took over the post of his father.

Suspicions that the stash of firearms belonged to the local government grew after authorities found a black Suburban SUV with plate number GOV888, which appears to belong to the governor of the province.

At least 60,000 rounds of M16 ammunition were found stored inside an 18-wheel truck. Authorities said the volume of ammunition was more than enough to arm an entire battalion.
A policeman usually carries around 300 rounds of M16 ammunition, according to Samson.

A military-grade Humvee (red plate SJA 336), with armor for a 50-caliber machine gun mounted on top, was also inside the NFA warehouse, as well as a military truck with plate number LFP 195.

The military attributed the success of the raid to the declaration of martial law earlier in the day, which gave powers to the military to conduct warantless search and arrest in the province.

The military said they had been monitoring activities in the warehouse for a long time, but could not get inside the establishment because they could not secure a search warrant. - JHU, ARCS, TJD, GMANews.TV

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