Gunmen kill police chief, aide in southern Philippine ambush

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
2022.08.30
Cotabato, Philippines
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Gunmen kill police chief, aide in southern Philippine ambush Police officers stand guard in front of the house of a shooting victim in Lamitan city on the island of Basilan, Philippines, July 29, 2022.
Police Regional Office Bangsamoro Autonomous Region handout/AFP

Unidentified gunman killed a local police chief and his aide, and wounded three other policemen during a roadside ambush in the southern Philippines on Tuesday while the officers were on their way to arrest a suspect, authorities said.  

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but a separatist militant group that swore allegiance to the so-called Islamic State extremist group operates in the area around Ampatuan, the town in Maguindanao province where the incident occurred, police said.

The gunmen opened fire on the marked vehicle of the arresting officers at about 10 a.m. in a village outside of Ampatuan. A gunfight ensued that led to the deaths of Lt. Col. Reynaldo Samson, the local police chief, and his aide, Cpl. Salipudin Endab.

“Someone leaked the information about our operation,” Brig. Gen. John Gano Guyguyon, the police director in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), told reporters, confirming the killings.

“We condemn to the highest degree this incident and we condole with the families of the victims,” he added.

A photo circulating on social media showed a police car riddled with bullets along the road in Kapinpilan village, with one of the two slain officers on the ground.

The police were supposed to serve a warrant against a long-wanted drug trafficker, identified as Abdulnasser Guianid, when they were ambushed, Guyguyon said. The wounded police, he said, were out of danger, and a manhunt was under way for Guianid.

Guyguyon said it was well known that militant groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operate in the fringes of Maguindanao province. In addition, he said, smaller armed groups of former separatist rebels also work in the area, sometimes as guns-for-hire for other groups.

BIFF has been blamed for several attacks, including bombings in public areas. It is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014 and now controls the autonomous Muslim region.

“We have been telling our men to be cautious in their mission because this group is still active.  We assure the public that we will not let this pass. We will do everything to keep the peace,” Guyguyon said.

The incident on Tuesday occurred in the same town where 58 people, including 32 journalists, were killed by members of an influential clan in 2009. The victims of that attack were accompanying the wife of Esmael Mangudadatu, who had challenged the patriarch of the Ampatuan clan for the top political post in the province.

In December 2019, a court sentenced to life imprisonment 28 members of Ampatuan clam after more than a decade of trial.

In predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao island, it is not unusual for families to settle differences through clan wars known as “rido.” Hostilities could last for decades until a peace pact is signed, usually through mediation by religious leaders along with a cash payment.

Political rivalries, ancestral land claims, disputes over local fiefdoms as well as election-related feuds often spur clan wars in Mindanao.

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