KIDAPAWAN CITY: Two army officers were shot dead on Tuesday by still unidentified gunmen while the soldiers were waiting just outside the local radio station in Marawi City for an informant who was supposed to shed more light on the recent ambush on an ABS-CBN news team, authorities said.
Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Marawi City-based 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, identified the slain soldiers as Sgt. John Bernas Saballe and First Class Sofronio S. Grame, Jr., belonging to the Army’s 65th Infantry Battalion.
A female bystander was wounded by a bullet during the attack and is now undergoing treatment at Amai Pakpak Medical Center hospital.
Murillo said the assault took place at a market place in Pangarungan village just outside the Ranao Broadcasting Corporation (RBC), a few meters away from the Masjid Islamic Center.
Meanwhile, over in Camp Crame in Quezon City, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced that two suspects in the ambush on the ABS-CBN news team on December 26 have been identified.
PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said in a statement on Tuesday that attempted murder charges have been filed before the Marawi City Prosecutor’s Office against Yusop Sangcad and Nasser Masurong, both of Brgy. Lilod Madaya, over the Dec. 26 attack.
The Marawi City Police Chief Insp. Parson Asadil said both Sangcad and Masurong were identified by witnesses who saw them changing clothes at Plaza Cabili after fleeing from the crime scene.
Meanwhile, Alex Cabornay, head of the NBI agents in Northern Mindanao, said young radicals who call themselves “sympathizers” of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have claimed responsibility for the TV news team’s ambush.
He said a special team of NBI personnel from Iligan City and Marawi City has been tasked to launch a massive manhunt operation against the suspects, who have also been suspected of committing other crimes prior to the ambush.
Hopes on CCTV
Meanwhile, RBC personnel said they were optimistic that the CCTV camera installed outside the station had captured the Dec. 29 shooting.
Saddened by the brutal attack on the soldiers, the reported owners of RBC – represented by Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. – urged all government security forces to speed up the investigations into atrocities taking place in the province to give justice to the victims.
“We are deeply saddened by yet another brutal murder committed in Marawi City by unidentified men. We sympathize with the families of the two victims, who were just performing their duties as public servants by ensuring peace and order in a place far away from their homes during this holiday season,” Adiong said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times.
“We are also appealing to the national government to really look into all these hostilities happening in our province for the sake and the safety of each and every one living here,” he said.
“We specifically ask the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police and the Department of National Defense to immediately revive the Joint Task Force Ranao, a special anti-crime task force that was formed to resolve all sorts of crimes committed in Lanao del Sur,” he said.
The military and police are also eyeing radical jihadists Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, locally known as Ghuraba or stranger, as possible culprits in the Dec. 29 attack and other previous atrocities in Lanao del Sur and other areas in Northern Mindanao.