Authorities arrested another suspect in the Maguindanao massacre in what was first thought to be an abduction in Cotabato City, a military official said Wednesday.

Colonel Prudencio Asto, Army 6th Infantry Division public affairs chief, said soldiers intercepted the “abductors” on Tuesday, but later confirmed that these were police intelligence operatives.

It was also learned later that the “victim” was Sonny Pindi, a member of the civilian volunteers organization (CVO) wanted for the killing of 57 people on Nov. 23, 2009.

According to Asto, residents informed the Army 37th Infantry Battalion that men on a maroon Toyota Revo (XSL-816) abducted a teenager in front of the Sardonyx Plaza along Gov. Rodriguez Ave. around 12 noon Tuesday.

Members of the same Army unit, who were manning checkpoints at the Narciso Ramos Highway junction and the road going to Maguindanao, sighted the vehicle and immediately flagged it down.

Asto said the soldiers inspected the vehicle, then investigated the driver and passengers, who were all wearing civilian clothes but claimed to be policemen.

To check the group’s identity, the soldiers escorted the vehicle to the ARMM Police Regional Office and there confirmed that they were members of the 12th and 15th PNP Regional Intelligence Units who conducted an operation, he said.

It was also learned there that the arrest was carried out on warrants issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for the massacre.

The arrest of Pindi, a member of CVO controlled by the Ampatuan family, fetches a P250,000 reward, Asto said.

Pindi became the 97th suspect in the Maguindanao massacre to fall into the hands of authorities. Ninety-nine suspects remain at large. (John Roson)

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