Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Philippine security forces raid ARMM compound; weapons seized

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 8, 2009) – Security forces seized a small cache of weapons after raiding Tuesday afternoon the office of a Philippine governor linked to the grisly murders of 57 people in Maguindanao province, officials said.

The weapons, which included more than a dozen automatic rifles, grenades and a machine gun and more than a thousand rounds of munitions, were recovered hidden inside a newly-constructed septic tank at the office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City, said Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman.

Police arrested last week the governor of Muslim autonomous region, Zaldy Ampatuan, along with his father, Andal Ampatuan Snr, who is also the governor of Maguindanao and his sons, among them Andal Ampatuan Jnr, the mayor of Datu Unsay town accused of masterminding the November 23 mass murders.

“Military intelligence pinpointed the exact location of the arms cache and soldiers and police forces swooped down the area and recovered the illegal weapons. Civilian intelligence also helped us a lot in locating the weapons,” Ponce said.

He said a militia commander Macapagal Camenden, believed to be the custodian of the weapons, managed to flee and is being hunted by security forces.
Military choppers on Tuesday also dropped thousands of feelers over a vast area in Maguindanao province urging armed followers of the Ampatuan clan – linked to the brutal murders of 57 people - to surrender peacefully.

“We have dropped feelers in the areas and urging armed followers of the Ampatuan clan to surrender peacefully,” Ponce said.

Security officials said thousands of troops and policemen were tracking down some 2,400 gunmen who are followers of the clan leader, Andal Ampatuan Snr, the governor of Maguindanao.

Among those killed in Maguindanao were 30 journalists, and the wife and sisters, including supporters of a rival politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, the deputy mayor of Buluan town, who is a candidate for governor in Maguindanao.

President Gloria Arroyo placed Maguindanao under martial rule on December 4 and ordered the arrest of all those involved in the murders.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said multiple counts of murder charges were filed against the massacre suspects, on top of rebellion cases being readied against them.

Since martial law was declared, hundreds of high-powered weapons and close to a half million pieces of munitions were unearthed in shallow graves near the mansions of the Ampatuans, bolstering suspicions they belong to clan. (Mindanao Examiner)

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