Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Police, Troops Mount Operation Vs Highway Bandits Who Killed 5 In Mindanao

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Philippine security forces mounted a massive search for gunmen who robbed a commuter van and killed five of its passengers in Lanao del Sur province in Mindanao, officials said.

Officials said the gunmen flagged down the van late Monday and held up its passengers on a highway near Calanugas town and then killed five of them later.

“We have launched a manhunt against those responsible in the killings. The military is assisting the police in the operation,” Army Brig. Gen. Hilario Atendido, the commander of a military task force in Mindanao, told the Mindanao Examiner.

“Five people were killed in the heist,” he said, adding, more policemen and soldiers have been deployed along the Narciso Ramos highway to protect civilians from further robbery and attacks.

The 180-km long highway connects Lanao del Sur to the province of Maguindanao and is a vital route for traders in Mindanao. It was also the scene of bloody battles between government troops and Muslim rebels in the past.

The bodies of the five men had been recovered on the highway near the town of Malabang. The van was heading to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur when it was waylaid.

Atendido said no groups or individual claimed responsibility for the killings. “Bandits could be behind this attack,” he said.

Highway robbers and criminal gangs have in the past attacked commuter buses and vans in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte provinces.

Early this month, ten gunmen also opened fire on a Zamboanga City-bound commuter bus in the town of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte, killing its driver and wounding several passengers. (Mindanao Examiner)

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