By Ali G. Macabalang
Thirteen people, including a barangay ex-chairman and police officer, were killed and four others wounded in a shootout in this province Saturday morning that forced traffic closure of a segment of the road between Sultan Kudarat town and Cotabato City for over five hours.
The bloody incident started around 3 a.m. when operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), on mission to serve search and arrest warrants, were met by gunshots from the concrete house of target suspects at barangay Limbo, Sultan Kudarat town, sparking a shootout that lasted for five hours, according to reports.
Amid the fierce resistance, Marine troops and police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos backed by two V-150 armored personnel carriers reinforced the CIDG operatives led by Police Major Esmael Madin to penetrate the two-floor residence of former Barangay Limbo Chairman Pendatun Kato Talusan, media accounts said.
The shootout, which forced authorities to close road traffic between Barangay Limbo and Cotabato City, ended about 7a.m. and left 13 fatalities – 12 from the suspects’ camp and a law enforcer named as P/Staff Sergeant Elenel Pido of the 4th SAF Battalion.
Only three of the 12 slain suspects were identified so far. They were former village chairman Talusan and his siblings Abdullah and Bembi.
Four of the government operatives were wounded and rushed to hospital for treatment. They were named as Police Capt. Ronillo Daligdig Jr., Police Patrolman Cayl Jun Gonzales, and Police Corporals John Ryan Aquino and Gyvard Bando from the 4th SAF Battalion.
Shortly after the smoke of gun-fires subsided, a woman and a child were rushed out of the bullet-riddled house in a state of trauma, while an old man came out handcuffed with police escort, local scribe Ferdinandh Cabrera said.
Cabrera, who took photo and video footage at the scene, said the bursts of gunshots were heard even in many parts of Sultan Kudarat town and Cotabato City that alarmed him to rush to the ground.
The slain Talusan and some of his followers were covered by a court arrest warrant for cases of frustrated robbery with homicide, carjacking and alleged involvement in illegal drug trade, according to CIDG reports given to the media.
The same reports said the police operation, dubbed “Oplan Pagtutugis, Oplan Salikop and Paglalansag Omega,“ was also covered by a court search warrant for the suspects harboring assorted firearms.
The CIDG said its operatives recovered from the slain suspects 12 assorted firearms including the following:
- One M16 Elesco SN. RP 0355138
- One M1911A1 cal. 45 Sn. 476011
- One Caspian cal. 45 Sn. 014278
- One M14 with Sn 2578618
- One M16 Sn. 035513
- One M16 Sn 4883696
- One PAL sn. EX0730
- Cal. 22 Rifle Sn. 1707.87
- One M16 Defaced Sn.
- One Improvised Barret Sn 1253862-15
- One colt M16 Sn. 9149701
- One M16 Sn.9062091
Relatives of the slain suspects have yet to give statements about the incident. AGM