A retired police official working for Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) and an active policeman were killed while two militiamen were injured in an ambush by bandits inside the company’s exploration site in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, the other day (Wednesday), authorities said.

Senior Supt. Ronaldo Llanera, Davao del Sur Provincial Police director, identified the fatalities as retired Supt. Villamindo Hectin, a security consultant at SMI, and PO2 Rey Tonso, of the Provincial Public Safety Company.

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. inside SMI’s “exploration area” in Brgy. Kimlawis.

Tonso and Hectin were riding a police patrol car on their way down from an upland SMI campsite when an undetermined number of armed men opened fire on their vehicle, Llanera said in a phone interview.

Lieutenant Col Lyndon Paniza, Army 10th Infantry Division spokesman, said members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary manning a nearby detachment rushed to the scene upon learning the attack, but were also fired upon.

The attackers, led by a certain Daguil Kapyon, engaged the reinforcements in a firefight, wounding militiamen identified only by the surnames Templa and Malanson, Paniza said.

The assailants are not members of the communist New People’s Army, but armed natives who might have thought the policemen were out to arrest them, according to Llanera.

“‘Yun kasing mga members ng local IPs (indigenous peoples), mayroon sa mga ‘yang may mga warrant of arrest. Siguro iniisip nila, ‘yung mga pulis na nandun are there to implement the warrant of arrest,” he said.

Sagittarius Mines Inc. is the local partner of Swiss company Xstrata Plc. in operating a proposed gold and copper mine in an area straddling boundaries of Kiblawan, Tampakan of South Cotabato, and Columbio of Sultan Kudarat.

The area has a two-billion ton deposit of copper and gold, according to feasibility studies done by the companies.

Policemen are now regularly patrolling the areas because of an increasing number of people going to the site, Llanera said.

Members of the military’s Task Force Kitaco are now pursuing the attackers, Paniza said. (John Roson)

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