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Revenge likely behind killings of 2 soldiers in Marawi City 

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Revenge was likely the motive behind the killings of two army soldiers, who were assisting in the probe on the ambush of a television news crew in Marawi City in southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

Officials said the soldiers – Sergeant John Saballe and Private First Class Sofronio Grame, Jr – both members of the 65th Infantry Battalion – were shot on Tuesday outside Ranao Broadcasting Corporation near the Masjid Islamic Center in Marawi City. A woman near the scene was also shot and wounded and was rushed to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center

Army Colonel Roseller Murillo, commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, said the killings of his soldiers were in retaliation by a local group engaged in illegal activities that was hit hard by the army in its anti-criminality campaign in support to peace efforts in Marawi.

Police were also looking into the possible involvement of radical jihadist group Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, locally known as “Ghuraba” (Stranger) into the attacks and other atrocities in Lanao del Sur and other areas in Northern Mindanao.

“Not radicals, but this attack on the soldiers is a long standing rido of certain Maranaw group involved in illegal activities na nasagasaan ng 65th Infantry Battalion starting in 2013,” Murillo told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Murillo said the soldiers were on an official mission in Marawi City in connection to the ongoing investigation into the attack on the news team of ABS-CBN. He said the soldiers were supposed to meet an informant. It was unknown if the attack was caught on security cameras outside the Ranao Broadcasting Corporation.

Police have filed criminal charges against two men – Nasser Masurong and Yusop Sangcad – tagged as among those behind the December 26 attack on ABS-CBN reporter Ronnie Enderes and his team Emilito Balansag and Gary Montecillo.

Both men have been identified by witnesses. The news crew was travelling on a pick-up truck from Ditsa-an Ramain town when four gunmen on two motorcycles opened fire on their vehicle.

It was unknown whether Masurong and Sangcad were involved in the killings of the two soldiers, but they remain at large. The National Bureau of Investigations said they were sympathizers of radical groups in Marawi supporting ISIS.

Heightened alert

Authorities are in heightened alert not only in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province, but also in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat following the spate of deadly attacks by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has strongly denounced the atrocities committed by the BIFF in Maguindanao and nearby Sultan Kudarat, calling the attacks on innocent civilians “barbaric and an act of terrorism”.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the recent attacks that killed over a dozen people were “devoid of any sense of revolutionary zeal and principles.”

“It was an act of terrorism. It was an attack against civilians, an attack against peace and development in Mindanao, and a cowardly act that deserves nothing but our collective condemnation. We should reject this as we should not be cowed by this.”

“In the face of this act of terrorism, we rely on each other for strength and courage. We rely on our security forces – the military and the police – as we are confident that the attacks will be contained and a spill over are prevented,” Hataman said.

He said the ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team and the Department of Social Welfare and Development have distributed relief goods to the affected communities in the towns of Datu Abdullah Sangki and Ampatuan, all in Maguindanao.

A total of 818 displaced families were served in Datu Abdullah Sangki town and 335 families more were assisted in Ampatuan town, according to Hataman.

The BIFF, which is fighting for a separate Islamic state in Mindanao, has warned of more attacks in the restive region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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