8 killed, 8 soldiers hurt in anti-drug operations in North Cotabato
COTABATO CITY – At least eight persons were killed and eight soldiers were injured during anti-drug operations Sunday dawn in a remote village in Midsayap, North Cotabato, authorities said.
Col. Noly Samarita, commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, said the firefight erupted when joint government forces were to serve warrants of arrest against Moks Masgal alias Commander Madrox, leader of “armed lawless elements,” in Barangay Nabalawag at 4:30 a.m.
An Army report identified the fatalities as PO3 Darwin Espallardo of North Cotabato PNP, Corporal Jose Miravalles, Pfc. Jaypee Duran, both of Division Recon Company, and an unidentified military guide.
Four followers of Commander Madrox, including his brother, were killed in the six-hour fighting.
Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Peralta, chief of the Cotabato provincial police, said that a civilian, identified as Daib Malimbas, a resident of Nabalawag, was killed during the shootout.
Peralta said Masgal used to be a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sub-leader with about 50 armed followers.
Peralta said Masgal was believed to be distributing shabu in the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.
Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said eight government forces sustained minor injuries and have been undergoing medication at Camp Siongco hospital.
“It is a joint operation and the targets were heavily armed,” Petinglay said.
Samarita said elements of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives, North Cotabato police, military and the 6th Infantry Division Recon Company, were approaching the village when they were fired upon by armed men, triggering a fire fight.
As the sun rose, two MG-520 attack helicopters provided air support, forcing Masgal and his men to flee deep into the Maguindanao marshland. SFM
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