By Francis T. Wakefield and Nonoy E. Lacson
Soldiers of Task Group Panther and the 4th Scout Ranger Company under the Joint Task Force Sulu seized a total of 61 high-powered firearms in a two-day military offensive launched against the group of Saudi Hamja, a local crime group in Omar town, Sulo last week.
Army Captain Jo-Ann D. Petinglay, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom), said members of the 4th Scout Ranger Company, led by Captain Rusell Bawat, encountered about 15 armed bandits Thursday afternoon resulting in a 20-minute firefight.
The bandits later withdrew leaving behind seven firearms and assorted ammunition.
Among the firearms seized were an M16 rifle, three M14 rifles, two M1 Garand rifle, an M203 Grenade Launcher, five M14 ammo magazines, ten M16 ammo magazines, seven M1 Garand clips, 100 rounds of .62 cartridge, 50 rounds of Caliber .30 ammunition, and six rounds of 40mm ammunition.
Petinglay said after scouring the immediate vicinity, the rangers found 12 more high-powered firearms. Among them were six M14 rifles, two M16A1 5.56mm rifles, two M1 Garand rifles, an M203 Grenade Launcher, and an M79 Grenade Launcher.
Earlier on Thursday, two high-powered firearms – an M16 rifle and an M203 grenade launcher, 646 rounds of caliber .50 ammunition, and six rounds of 60mm were seized in a clearing operation conducted by the 4th SCRC in Barangay Lablab, Omar, Sulu.
On the run
On Wednesday, the Task Group Panther seized 36 firearms from the group of Hamja in a military operation in Barangay Capual, Omar town. And four more high-powered firearms – two M16 rifles, an M14 rifle and an M1 Garand rifle were seized following a clearing operation launched by the same group in Barangay Lablab in Omar town.
“We have pushed these bandits out of their comfort zones, and we intend to keep it that way,” said Colonel Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu based in Busbus, Jolo, Sulu.
“We will continue to have them running until we get them and all their firearms,” he added.
For his part, Major General Carlito G. Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, thanked the public for providing them with information in order to defeat the enemy.
“I believe that the people are helping us with these bits of very important information, reporting whereabouts of lawless elements, because they desire for their town to be free of fear from any form of criminality,” Galvez said.
“Seizure of these firearms will surely entail a decrease if not fully pre-empt lawlessness in the municipality where the firearms were seized.”
“WestMinCom together with the Philippine National Police, will continue the conduct of focused military operations to advance its mandate of protecting the people and their communities from criminalities, banditry and terrorism,” Galvez added.