By Aaron Recuenco
Hundreds of residents were forced to flee their homes in Talitay town of Maguindanao as Army troopers were sent to contain the conflict between two rival candidates for vice mayor.
Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said soldiers were able to confiscate explosive devices and high-powered firearms when they swept the suspected lairs of supporters of two warring politicians.
Besana said soldiers started arriving in some barangays of Talitay town after receiving reports of the firefight between the supporters of Montasir Sabal and Suraida Ameril, both vice mayoralty candidate of Talitay town.
The gun battle, he said, started on Wednesday.
The military operation was immediately launched to contain the escalation of conflict and protect the civilian community in the area, after a reported firefight between the private armed groups of the two vice-mayoralty candidates,” said Besana.
Hundreds of residents in the area were forced to evacuate to give way to the pacification effort of the Joint Task Force Central troopers,” he added.
Besana said the conflict was contained after the soldiers arrived.
“The operating troops intervened with the warring groups and conducted clearing operation to bring back normalcy in Barangay Bentan,” said Besana.
While scouring the area, he said troops were able to recover one M16 rifle, four M653 rifles, two M203 rifles, two M14 rifles, an M79 rifle, a Garand rifle, two Thomson, a Carbine, a homemade shotgun, a KG9 Luger, one 60mm mortar, a Baofing Radio, 15 pieces of large plastic drums (suspected to be anti-personnel mines), 12 PVC anti-personnel mine and four hand grenades.
“We recovered these war materiel which were hastily left along the route of withdrawal of the private armed groups. Our clearing operations continue to this time,” said Lieutenant Colonel Crizaldo A. Fernandez, Commanding Officer of the 90th Infantry Battalion.
He said the Third Explosive Ordnance Disposal of the Philippine Army are currently checking the plastic drums suspected to contain anti-personnel mine components and illegal substance for bomb making.
Fernandez said Army troopers have started escorting back the displaced residents as of Friday.