Map of Pikit municipality, North Cotabato.

PIKIT, North Cotabato—Police track teams are in pursuit of two “persons of interest” linked to the Aug. 26 ambush-slay of four part-time construction workers here.

“We have two persons of interest and police teams have been dispatched to locate them,” Major Maxim Peralta, Pikit police chief, said. He declined to disclose further details so as not to jeopardize the ongoing operation.

Peralta said the incident is linked to a “rido” or clan war between a certain Wacan clan and members of the 105th Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) base command in the area.

The victims are identified as Rey Santander Biñas, Calid Talib Luntayan, William Valdez Cantones, and Darwin Valdez Cantones, all residents of Barangay Fort Pikit here.

“The victims were onboard a motorcycle going home from a fishing activity in a nearby village when gunmen waylaid them around 1 pm that fateful day,” Peralta said.

All four victims were unarmed, he added.

An investigation by the local police indicated that Biñas was the primary target of the gunmen, being closely related to the Wacan clan.

The incident was allegedly an offshoot between the warring parties that also clashed in the boundary of Aleosan and Pikit towns early this year, which claimed several lives from both sides.

“These conflicting parties are among the factions that signed a peace agreement following the effort of local officials and other counterparts to resolve existing conflicts in the municipality”, Peralta said.

Police recovered 95 empty shells of 5.56mm ammunition and were turned over to the crime laboratory for ballistic examination.

Efforts to bring the parties into a peaceful dialogue are underway as spearheaded by the local government unit, police, military, and MILF counterparts to deter similar incidents.

Peralta, however, maintained that those behind the ambush are still liable for their crime before the law.

“Even if the conflict is resolved, the criminal liabilities against the identified perpetrators will continue”, he said. (PNA)