Local terrorists eyed in ambush of 3 soldiers in Lanao del Norte
ILIGAN CITY – Police in Lanao del Norte are investigating the possible involvement of local affiliates of the terror group Islamic State (IS), in the killing of three soldiers and a civilian in Poona-Piagapo town on Thursday morning.
Citing the account of several witnesses, Maj. Salman Saad, information officer of the Lanao del Norte police, said that around six gunmen were in black outfits, similar to IS fighters.
Wearing civilian clothes, the soldiers descended from their detachment in Barangay Tangclao and were bound for Baloi town to buy food supplies when they were ambushed at around 8:45 a.m. as they crossed Radapan River towards nearby Pantao-Ragat town.
This is the first attack against military personnel in Lanao del Norte in years.
The area of the ambush used to be a stronghold of the then secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed a peace deal with government in 2014 and are now into phased decommissioning of its combat forces.
The area is also just several kilometers away, through a forested mountain, from Piagapo town in Lanao del Sur where IS gunmen involved in the Marawi siege are believed to be maintaining hideouts.
The slain soldiers were identified as Corporals Albert Suara and Bryan Binayog, and Private First Class Albert Soriano, all belonging to the Army’s 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion.
A civilian, identified as Camilo Andog, 18, was also hit by gunfire and died on the spot.
Saad said Andog was cleaning his motorcycle in the river when the shooting happened.
The gunmen also fired at a pickup trailing the soldiers. A source from the area said the vehicle carried an entire family who was to attend a wedding ceremony.
One of those onboard, a certain Hadji Amen Sumagumba, was slightly injured as a bullet grazed his chin. He was rushed to a hospital in Iligan City for treatment.
The gunmen sped off using the motorcycle of a slain soldier and that of Andog, according to Saad, after taking the phones and wallets of the soldiers.
The two motorcycles were later found in a hinterland village of Pantao-Ragat town, he added, possibly abandoned there by the fleeing gunmen.
On Friday, the Lanao del Norte provincial police called for a command conference to discuss the incident.
“We are still establishing the circumstances and we do not have any other information at the moment,” said Brig. Gen. Facundo Palafox IV, commander of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
The flag at the soldiers’ battalion camp was flown at half-staff starting on Friday to mourn their death.
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.