Government troops seized high-powered firearms and explosives in a raid at the lair of a suspect in the Maguindanao massacre Thursday, but the target and his “coddlers” escaped.

Colonel Leopoldo Galon, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, said elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion and the Maguindanao Provincial Police swooped down at the lair of Mads Utto in Brgy. Manungkaling, Mamasapano, around 2 p.m.

However, Utto, a suspect in the killing of 57 people last Nov. 23, 2009, and the “lawless elements” coddling him eluded arrest, Galon said.

A search at the lair yielded an M16 rifle, four rifle grenades, and a hand grenade among others, according to the regional military spokesman.

The operation came a day after authorities arrested Sahid Guiamadel alias Jun Aliman, another massacre suspect, at a hospital in Kidapawan City where he was recently employed as a security guard.

Guiamadel’s capture brought the number of arrested massacre suspects to 96, but 100 others remain at large. (John Roson)

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