Monday, January 11, 2010

Police orders investigation on Sulu weapons landing

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 11, 2010) – Philippine police is investigating reports of landing of hundreds of illegal weapons in the southern province of Sulu, where security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants.

Senior Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, the regional police chief, has ordered the investigation into the reports that some 300 firearms landed in the coastal town of Luuk.

“We are investigating reports that 300 illegal weapons landed in the town of Luuk” Latag told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, citing intelligence reports, said the weapons were smuggled into Luuk by a still unidentified armed group days after President Gloria Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao province where security forces recovered huge caches of light infantry and heavy artillery weapons allegedly owned by the powerful Ampatuan clan.

It was unknown whether the weapons came from Maguindanao or who owns arms cache.

The Ampatuan clan is one of the most feared in Mindanao and also among the wealthiest in the impoverished Maguindanao province, whose governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, the regional governor, and Andal Ampatuan Jr., and several family members and relatives were linked by authorities to the gruesome killings of 57 people on November 23.

Among those killed were 31 journalists and wife and relatives of Buluan vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who is a candidate for governor of Maguindanao in next year’s polls.

The victims were on a political caravan when they were abducted and killed by more then 100 gunmen allegedly led by Ampatuan Jr. All of them were eventually arrested in connection with the brutal slayings. The Ampatuans denied all the accusations against them.

Tan put Sulu under a state of emergency last year after Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped three Red Cross workers. He also ordered security forces to dismantle all private armies of political warlords in the province.

Last year, police also recruited some 2,000 civilians to form part of the Police Auxiliary Unit to help authorities fight terrorism and guard villages against rebel attacks.

On Sunday, a grenade exploded outside a Roman Catholic Church in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo. The blast damaged window panes of the Our Lady of the Mount Carmel cathedral, but there were no casualties in the attack.

On New Year’s Eve, a grenade also exploded in front of the church and wounding one government soldier guarding the cathedral. The church was also targeted twice last year. In October 27, a grenade was lobbed by an unidentified man the back of the cathedral and the explosion damaged several windows. Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants also detonated a homemade bomb in front of the church last year.

The Abu Sayyaf group was also linked to last year’s failed assassination attempt on Sulu governor Sakur Tan outside his office in Patikul town. Militants bombed Tan’s convoy on May 13 that wounded 10 people, including a local town mayor Hatta Berto.

Tan just came from his office and on his way home when a motorcycle bomb exploded near his vehicle. Police later captured two suspected bombers Juhan Alimuddin and Sulayman Muin who confessed to investigators that they were hired by Tan’s political foe to kill the governor. (Mindanao Examiner)

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