Police: Slain Lanao town mayor under surveillance before ambush

SLAIN Pantar, Lanao del Norte town Mayor Mohammad Exchan Limbona was under surveillance by his assailants before he was gunned down in Sitio Paitan, Dalipuga village, Iligan City, on December 29, police said Monday.

It was possible that Limbona’s vehicle was being followed as it made its way to Pantar from Cagayan de Oro City since the killers knew that the former mayor was driving, said Iligan City Police Director Senior Superintendent Leony Roy Ga in a radio interview Monday, January 2.

Ga said the assailants’ vehicle has been tailing Limbona’s Ford Everest from this city and got the chance when the target vehicle slowed down.

He said the attackers then overtook Limbona’s SUV and fired at the drivers’ side hitting the victim before speeding off.

Investigators said Limbona had six gunshot wounds on various parts of his body.

Limbona was brought to a medical facility but he was declared dead about an hour later.

Weapons believed to be used by the attackers were .38 caliber and 9mm pistols and M16 rifle, based on the empty shells that were recovered.

Ga said the police are still looking for potential witnesses that could help them identify the suspects, since the area where the incident happened was dark and secluded.

Even Limbona’s wife and daughter, who were with him during the ambush, and his two police escorts who were injured, could not give details that would lead to the identity of the attackers.

In previous interviews, Ga said it was probable that Limbona’s assassination was triggered by “rido” (clan war) and politics in his hometown.

Limbona was involved in a controversy when he was accused of killing Pantar vice mayor Hadji Abdul Onos in 2007. He was administratively dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2014.

In May 2014, Mangonday Tago was appointed as acting mayor after Limbona’s dismissal order, however, Limbona refused to vacate his post.

Lanao del Norte second district representative Abdullah Dimaporo, in a statement on Monday, has asked law enforcement agencies like the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a thorough investigation to locate and identify Limbona’s killers.

Dimaporo also appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to give Limbona’s killing a priority.

“We ask our President to give time for the capture of the assassins of Exchan Limbona who has contributed to our pursuit of law and order, peace and unity of our people [in Lanao del Norte],” said Dimaporo.

In a separate statement, Lanao del Norte Governor Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo said Limbona was a dedicated leader who “never abandoned or left his constituents” during the political crisis in Pantar.
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