12 gunmen, cop killed in Maguindanao operation

AdChoiceTV News — Twelve members of a heavily-armed gang and policeman were killed in a five-hour gunfight in Sultan Kudarat town town on Saturday.

A police V-150 combat vehicle guards the entrance to the hideout of the 12 gunmen killed by law-enforcement teams in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Jan. 23, 2021.

Among the fatalities in the encounter that lasted from 3:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday were Pendatun Talusan, who was former chairman of Barangay Limbo, Sultan Kudarat and his 11 followers.

Members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region were to serve them arrest warrants from a local court in connection with their involvement in heinous crimes, but the attempt went haywire when they resisted.

The operation that resulted in the death of Talusan and his relatives, Bembi and Abdullah, both surnamed Talusan, and their nine cohorts was carried out by the CIDG-BAR with the help of units under the  Bangsamoro regional police.

Combined members of CIDG-BAR, among them Major Esmael Madin, and the police’s elite Special Action Force were to peacefully arrest the Talusans, facing multiple homicide, frustrated murder and vehicle theft cases in courts but neutralized them instead when they opened fire.

A SAF operative, Police Staff Sgt. Elenel Pido, was killed in the initial exchange of gunfire between the raiding team and the suspects.

Pido and his companions were approaching the adjoining houses of the Talusans along a highway in Barangay Limbo when they were shot with assault rifles, killing him on the spot and wounding four other SAF members.

Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez, director of PRO-BAR, said the teams out to arrest the suspects were forced to return fire after Pido was felled by with automatic gunfire.

“They were to be served with warrants for their arrest peacefully but they provoked an encounter,” Rodriguez said.

Police and Army intelligence sources said among the slain gunmen were suspects in the fatal ambush of no fewer than 20 off-duty motorcycle-riding policemen and soldiers in highways in Sultan Kudarat and in nearby Cotabato City from between 2016 until December last year.

The culprits reportedly took with them the service pistols of their victims as they escaped.

Madin, a ranking staff of CIDG-BAR residing in a nearby barangay in the same town, survived a gun attack last year by a follower of the Talusans.

Madin then said he was certain the attempt to kill him was related to the CIDG-BAR’s unrelenting law enforcement campaign in areas where the group operated.

Rodriguez said Saturday’s supposed mission of the CIDG-BAR and other police units to arrest the suspects was premised on reports of vigilant residents in Sultan Kudarat privy to the activities of the group.

“The operating units were armed with valid arrest warrants and separate warrants to search their houses for hidden firearms,” Rodriguez said.

The raiding teams found nine assault rifles and three pistols beside the cadavers of the Talusans and their men, according to Rodriguez. — via Albert Rovic Tan / AdChoiceTV News

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