A scene near a public market in Cotabato City. Gunmen kill Wednesday 04 Oct 2006 a top official of the Muslim autonomous region, lawyer Arnel Datukon, in Cotabato City near Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines. (Juan Magtanggol)
MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 04 Oct) - Unidentified motorcycle gunmen on Wednesday ambushed a car carrying an official of the Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, police and military said.
Two gunmen, armed with M16 automatic rifles, opened fire on the car, killing a lawyer Arnel Datukon, executive director of the Social Fund Project of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, the regional police chief.
"There is an investigation going on and our forces are tracking down the gunmen responsible in this senseless killing," Goltiao told the Mindanao Examiner.
Datukon was on his way to work when ambushed around 8 a.m. in downtown Cotabato City near Maguindanao province, he said.
Witnesses said the attackers were clad in camouflage uniform and escaped after the ambush. Police and military camouflage are widely available in black-markets in Cotabato City, despite a strict campaign against the use by civilians of these uniforms.
"We are supporting the police force in the hunt for the ambushers. And troops have been alerted about the killing," Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao, said in a separate interview.
He said Brig. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, the regional army commander, ordered troops to intensify patrol in the city's outskirts to help the police secure Cotabato against lawless elements.
The governor of the Muslim autonomous region Datu Zaldy Ampatuan was not available to make a statement, but the politician, the son of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, is frequently holding office in his hometown in Shariff Aguak.
The elder Ampatuan survived an ambush in June in Shariff Aguak town after a roadside bomb was detonated near the politician's convoy and authorities blamed the attack to a senior Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader, Zaid Pakiladatu, who denied the accusation. But Pakiladatu's wife was also killed in an ambush in Cotabato City several weeks later after the bombing.
The influential and equally powerful Ampatuan clan and the MILF are bitter enemies and forces from both sides had previously clashed in Maguindanao province. It was not immediately known if the latest attack was connected to the feud. (With reports from Juan Magtanggol and Mark Navales)