3 soldiers slain, 2 hurt in Maguindanao, Cotabato ambuscades
COTABATO CITY – Three soldiers died while two others, including a civilian, were wounded in separate ambush incidents perpetrated on Thursday by still unidentified gunmen in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao and Cotabato City.
At past 12 noon, two men riding in tandem on a motorbike shot dead Staff Sgt. Verande Lardera, 40, a member of the Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion based in Parang, Maguindanao.
According to Police Senior Supt. Michael Lebanan, Cotabato City police director said Lardera was driving his motorbike heading to the 6th Infantry Division headquarters in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao when shot along the busy Sinsuat Avenue at past 12 noon.
Responding police rushed Lardera, who was in civilian clothes, to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, about 50 meters away but was declared dead on arrival.
Police believed the perpetrators belong to the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
In Maguindanao, Senior Supt. Ronaldo Briones, provincial police director, in a report, said two soldiers were killed in an ambush Thursday afternoon. Another infantryman was injured in the process.
A woman civilian was also hit by stray bullets during the 4 p.m. ambush in Sitio Kurungan, Barangay Sambulawan, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.
Killed on the spot were Privates Junard Estribor and Nelier Pinto, both of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion based in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.
Wounded was Private Muqtadir Sampulna, also of the same Army battalion. The injured woman was unidentified in the police report.
Briones, citing reports from Datu Salibo police, said the soldiers, who were off duty and in civilian clothes, were on board a red Toyota Vios on the way to Cotabato City when ambushed by gunmen believed to be BIFF guerrillas.
After the ambush, the suspects, armed with M-165 Armalite rifles, fled on board a white car to the interior of Datu Salibo town.
A witness said the victims were armed with handguns but failed to return fire.
“They were not attacked by BIFF, they were attacked by persons they had ‘rido’ with,” a villager said in a phone interview asking he remained unidentified.
“Rido” refers to family feud or clan war involving Muslims in Maguindanao.
But Abu Misry Mama, speaking for one of the factions of the BIFF, claimed responsibility for the ambush. “That is a retaliatory attack in response to the military’s continued operations against us in the marshland,” Mama said in the vernacular.
“We will continue to get back at soldiers,” he said in a phone interview./lzb
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.