ENCOUNTER CASUALTIES. Six of the eight bodies of suspected members of an armed group line up in beds at a hospital following an early morning encounter with policemen who tried to serve arrest warrants in Barangay Mileb, Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao, early Wednesday morning (June 22, 2022). Six other individuals, including a policeman, were wounded during the clash. (Photo courtesy of Ferdinandh Cabrera–Kutangbato News)

COTABATO CITY – Eight persons died while six others were injured after a firefight erupted early Wednesday morning between an armed group and police operatives in Maguindanao province.

Brigadier Gen. Arthur Cabalona, police director of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said the clash occurred around 4 a.m. in Barangay Mileb, Rajah Buayan town when authorities tried to serve the arrest warrants against wanted persons Turkey Utto Latip and Katindig Mustapha.

Latip was wanted for frustrated murder while Mustapha was facing robbery with homicide charges.

“They resisted arrest and opened fire on approaching lawmen,” Cabalona said. “They forced our troops to return fire.”

The fighting lasted for about an hour, he said.

Latip and Mustapha were among the eight persons found dead at the encounter site. Six other individuals, including a policeman, were wounded in the incident.

Police found nine assorted long firearms and one short firearm, including two .50-caliber Barret sniper rifles, in the area.

“We are determining if these persons are affiliated with our existing threat groups in Maguindanao,” Cabalona said, adding they could be members of a private armed group or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. (PNA)