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NORTH COTABATO – Anti-narcotics agents killed yesterday an alleged drug trafficker and found in a house near the scene the assault rifle of one of the 44 policemen killed in the 2015 Mamasapano incident.

Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., spokesman of the Police Regional Office 12 in General Santos City, told The STAR in a phone interview the raiding team was out to arrest Dindo Piang, a former municipal councilor, but was provoked to neutralize him when he pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and opened fire.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), 602nd Army Brigade based in Zamboanga City, also said the police, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) joined forces in the arrest of 53 members of a lawless group under a notorious drug pusher operating in this province.

Galgo, citing initial feedback from their anti-illegal drugs task force, said the policemen raided a nearby house to search for methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) but found a cache of military-type weapons instead.

Galgo said the encounter in Pikit town triggered panic among the local communities.

The missing rifle listed in the firearm registry of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF) was found by combined personnel of the provincial police and the Region 12 Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, led by Supt. Maximo Sebastian, in the nearby house of another suspected drug trafficker, Nasser Karim.

Karim, also implicated in large-scale drug trafficking, is a son of the municipal police chief of Pikit, Senior Insp. Sindatu Karim.

Local officials want the older Karim relieved from his post to pave the way for a speedy investigation on how the firearm of one of the 44 SAF operatives killed in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao last year got into the hands of his son.

Galgo said the firearms recovered from Karim included two M-16 armalites and two M-14 assault rifles.

Galgo said investigators who went along with Sebastian’s group found that one of the M-16 rifles bore the serial number of one of the more than 30 firearms taken by rebels from SAF men who perished in the 12-hour running firefights in Mamasapano.

Meanwhile, Tan said government and MILF forces conducted the operation against the group of alleged notorious drug pusher Madrox Masgal in Barangays Nabalawag, Kadingilan, Olamdang, Kadigasan and Tugal, all in Midsayap, last Oct. 5.

Tan said the operating forces also seized several high-powered firearms belonging to the lawless group, including a homemade barret, an M16 rifle, two homemade M79 grenade launchers and rocket propelled grenade ammunition.

According to Tan, the Masgal group was responsible for the deaths of personnel of the 45th Infantry Battalion and 7th Field Artillery Battalion and the landmine explosion hitting the 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company.

“The joint cooperation of the government troops and the MILF was in adherence to the all-out campaign of the government against the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country,” Tan said.

The arrested persons and firearms were temporarily detained in Camp Darapanan for rehabilitation before being turned over to the families and the police for filing of appropriate charges.

On Monday, Chief Supt. Agripino Javier, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, vowed to fill detention facilities with more drug offenders in Central Mindanao. 


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