A GUNBATTLE erupted between Philippine National Police Special Action Force agents and a group of heavily-armed terror suspects in Polomolok, South Cotabato early morning yesterday resulting in the death of six of the gunmen and injuries to two policemen, PNP chief, General Debold M. Sinas said.
The slain suspects were led by Arafat Bulacon alias ‘Maula,’ a known sub-leader of the Dawlah Islamiyah Maguid Group formerly known as the Ansar Khilafa Philippines who is the subject of two warrants of arrest for murder issued by two Mindanao courts.
According to Sinas, a platoon of commandos from the 4th Special Action Battalion of the PNP Special Action Force led by Major Pal Vincent Camarce raided the suspects’ hideout in Purok 6-A in Barangay Koronadal Proper in Polomolok municipality 5:30 in the morning.
Citing a report from PNP-SAF director, Brigadier Gen. Bernabe M. Balba, the PNP chief said that the occupants of the suspected terrorist safehouse sensed the approaching troops and engaged them in a firefight.
A 40-minute gunbattle erupted between the two groups resulting in the killing of Bulacon and his five still unidentified cohorts and the wounding of SAF troopers, Corporal Bryan Cabreros and Patrolman Ronald Lepalam.
“One of the two SAF commandos was shot in the chest by the suspects but luckily, his bullet-proof vest saved him,” said Major Gen. Balba. He added that the other SAF member was hit by a bullet in his lower leg.
Initially recovered at the scene were a caliber 5.56 Bushmaster rifle with one long steel magazine. PNP Crime Laboratory personnel are still searching for more pieces of evidence at the scene of the clash, he said. Troops are also still tracking down other members of the group who managed to escape as of press time.
The wounded policemen were brought to the Polomolok Municipal Hospital for initial treatment before Cpl. Cabreros was transferred to the Mindanao Medical Center in General Santos City for further medical care.
Sinas said the PNP-SAF was joined by operatives from the Police Regional Office 12 Regional Mobile Force Battalion and the South Cotabato Provincial Mobile Force Company, all under PRO12 director, Brig. Gen. Michael John F. Dubria; the 17th Air Force Intelligence Battalion; the 12th National Intelligence Service Unit and the Naval Intelligence Service Group and the Army’s 5th Special Forces in conducting the raid.
He added that Bulacon is the subject of a warrant of arrest for murder issued by Judge Lorenzo Balo of the Isulan, Sultan Kudarat Regional Trial Court Branch 19 and another warrant for murder issued by Judge Adelbert Santillan of the Polomolok RTC Branch 63.
The PNP chief said that Bulacon, along with Dawlah Islamiyah leaders Salahuddin Hassan and Abu Toraype are all associated with the late wanted terror leader Geoffrey Nilong alias ‘Abu Omar/Moimoi’ who was killed in a firefight with PNP Intelligence Group agents under Brig. Gen. Edgar S. Monsalve and the PRO12 inside the Migyz Inn in Purok Hiligaynon, Bgy. Saliao in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat last Wednesday.
Monsalve said the suspect is known as the leader of the Dawlah Islamiyah Nilong Group wanted for its involvement in a 2018 General Santos City bombing, the assassination of a local policeman identified as Captain Herman Gabat and the ambush on several Polomolok policemen.
Recovered from the possession of the slain suspect were one cal. .45 pistol, two 60mm mortar warheads, one rifle grenade with bull trap, one electric blasting cap and an improvised explosive device placed inside an empty M-230 shell.