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Alleged bus bomber escapes but aide gets killed

/ 01:28 PM November 27, 2013

COTABATO CITY– A former Moro rebel leader blamed for a wave of bombings and kidnappings in Central Mindanao has eluded arrest, but one of his aides was killed in a shootout with police and soldiers in North Cotabato, police said Wednesday.

Chief Inspector Elmer Guevara, chief of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in North Cotabato, said a hunt was continuing for  Datukan Samad alias Commander Lastikman, who escaped a police and military dragnet set up Tuesday in the town of Midsayap. One of Samad’s men identified as Ramon Bantolinay was killed and a policeman wounded in an ensuing shootout.

Samad was  arrested in December 2011, but escaped from the Maguindanao provincial jail here in July 2012.

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He was moved to the jail in Cotabato City after his followers attacked the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City in a failed attempt to rescue him in February 2012. He was being held there on charges of masterminding a series of bus bombings.

Guevarra said that the authorities received information on Tuesday that Samad was hiding in a hut in Sitio Tinibtiban in the town of Pikit and mounted an operation to arrest him.

“When we arrived at past 10 a.m., armed men opened fire and slightly wounded P02 Christopher Soriano on the shoulder. We returned fire and killed one of them,” he said.

Guevarra said the authorities recovered at least three high-powered firearms following the raid.

He said Samad’s life as a fugitive was coming to an end because of the cooperation with the authorities of some people he had trusted, including his wife.

“In due time, Lastikman will fall into government hands,” Guevarra said.

Former Cotabato City police director Senior Supt. Danny Reyes said in previous interviews that Samad, who has been repeatedly disowned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was a serious threat to public safety and his capture, dead or alive, was the only way of ending his notoriety.

“He is a very dangerous person, whom the community should be wary about. Any sighting of him should immediately be reported so that the police can act on it,” Reyes said then.

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