MATALAM, North Cotabato: About 50 families here were forced to evacuate after a firefight erupted on Friday between authorities and a lawless armed group in two remote villages as pursuit operation continues against fugitives who bolted the North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) last January 3.
The displaced families were from Sitio Imelda, Barangay Taguranao and the adjacent Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Tamped, in this municipality.
Chief Insp. Sunny Leoncito, Matalam police chief, said joint elements of police’s elite Special Action Force and Public Safety Company, and the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion personnel were conducting operation against the remaining escapees when met by resistance from an armed group in the border of the two villages.
Leoncito said the armed men they encountered were fugitives of the NCDJ who joined the group of Commander Derby that stormed the jail to rescue their cohorts. Derby himself had escaped from the NCDJ in 2015.
Nearly a hundred escapees were recaptured in subsequent pursuit operations but over 60 others are still at- large.
Meanwhile, Mayor Cheryl Catamco has temporarily suspended classes in Tamped and Taguranao, including its neighboring villages of Santa Maria, Kabulacan and Ilian.