3 soldiers die, 2 hurt in separate ambushes

By Noel Punzalan

March 1, 2019, 3:31 pm

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Three soldiers died Thursday while two others, including a civilian, were injured in separate ambush incidents perpetrated by still unidentified gunmen in the Maguindanao town of Datu Salibo and Cotabato City.

Major Arvin John Encinas, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the casualties in the Maguindanao incident, as Privates Junard Estribor and Nelier Pinto, both of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion (57IB).

Injured in the same incident were Pvt. Muqtadir Sampulna, also of 57IB, and a female bystander whose identity was not immediately known.

Encinas said the soldiers were aboard a Toyota Vios car when waylaid along Sitio Kurungan, Barangay Sambulawan past 2 p.m. Estribor and Pinto instantly died, while Sampulna and the woman were rushed to the hospital after sustaining bullet wounds.

“The gunmen used M16 rifles based on empty shells recovered at the site of ambush,” he said.

Encinas said intelligence reports pointed to the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as behind the attack.

“The BIFF continues to be on the run due to ongoing military operations against them in their pinpointed lairs in Maguindanao,” he said.

Also on Thursday, motorcycle-riding gunmen shot dead an Army man along Sinsuat Ave., Rosary Heights 10, Cotabato City, shortly before noontime.

Police Col. Michel Lebanan, city police director, said Staff Sgt. Verande Lardera, 40, of the Army’s 37IB, was on board a motorbike when tailed and fired upon by the gunmen.

“The suspect succumbed to four gunshot wounds in the body,” Lebanan said.

He said the city police is currently pursuing several “persons of interest” believed to have perpetrated the attack. Initial police investigation points to personal grudge as a possible motive behind Lardera’s murder. (PNA)