Search for 'Bin Laden' in Zambo angers residents

Posted at 04/30/2012 6:49 PM

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Fifteen residents of Barangay Recodo in Zamboanga City have accused several police officers of looting and harassment.

The complainants, mostly women, trooped to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday to seek the agency's help after policemen allegedly
barred them from visiting their homes.

Operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Zamboanga City Police Office have raided at least 3 villages in Barangay Recodo in search of Margani Samla alias Bin Laden, who is one of the top 10 most wanted persons in Zamboanga City.

The raiding team, however, was met with bullets coming from the houses surrounding the residence of Samla.

A member of the PNP-Special Action Force was killed while another policeman and a civilian were wounded in the exchange of fire.

Twelve people, including a policeman assigned to Zamboanga Police Station 9, have been arrested.

Police Regional Office 9 director Chief Superintendent Napoleon Estilles said it was in the house of Police Officer 3 Mohammad Phon, where followers of Samla hid during the firefight.

Estilles wants charges to be filed against Phon.

Villagers complain

Meanwhile, some villagers said they have been appealing to the police who have not left the village to allow them to get their clothes and food from their homes.

Mariam Sali said she has been wearing the same clothes for 4 days now. "Kahit kumuha na lang ng pagkain at damit, ayaw pa kami payagan."

Another complainant, Rabia Sakandal, said they padlocked their homes before leaving at the height of the raid.

But the doors of their houses were reportedly damaged and their appliances and other valuables allegedly taken by policemen.

Zamboanga City police office head Chief Superintedent Mario Yanga denied the complainant's allegations, saying the blame lies on residents "who took advantage of the commotion and ransacked the houses."

The CHR is set to send investigators to Recodo to check on the claims made by the complainants.