COTABATO CITY—A suspected member of an extortion gang behind the series of bomb attacks on a bus company in Central Mindanao has been killed in an entrapment operation, according to police.
Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, police chief of Sultan Kudarat town, identified the slain suspect as Sadam Solaiman.
Solaiman, according to Balquin, is a member of the Komao Command, an extortion gang which preys on bus companies servicing routes in Central Mindanao.
Balquin said a policeman was wounded during the gunfight that led to the killing of Solaiman. There is very little information on Solaiman’s group, according to Balquin, since it is a new one.
Police tagged another group, the Al-Khobar, in previous bomb attacks on buses, including the Dec. 29 attack on a unit owned by Husky Bus Co. that wounded 29 passengers.
Balquin said the management of Husky Bus sought police help after receiving another extortion letter and agreed to cooperate in an entrapment operation in a restaurant in Isulan.
Balquin said as a bus company employee was handing over a bag containing cash to two suspects, the men noticed that policemen in civilian clothes were closing in.
“There was a scuffle when the suspects noticed civilian-clad operatives closing in,” said Balquin. One of the suspects drew a gun and opened fire, hitting a law enforcer.
Balquin said the rest of the police team returned fire and killed Solaiman instantly. The other suspect, identified as Yasser Sugko of Mamasapano, Maguindanao, has been arrested and is now in police custody, he said.
He said authorities also recovered IDs that appeared to have been issued by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but quickly added that police still needed to verify if the suspects were legitimate members of the rebel group.
Military, police involvement
Von al-Haq, speaking for the MILF, told a local radio station here that his group will help police verify the authenticity of the IDs.
“For 10 years now, we have not issued IDs to members,” he said.
In Zamboanga City, police said they are hunting down three ranking military officers and a retired senior police official for their alleged involvement in extortion activities targeting businessmen there.
Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police chief, identified the retired police superintendent as Karanain Ibrahim while the two military colonels were identified as a Massilam and a Rommel Salih. The other suspect was identified as Army Capt. Malik Unno.
De Ocampo said the suspects pass themselves off as operatives of the defunct Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group in extorting money from businessmen. Charlie Señase and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao