Police in the Philippines killed 13 members of a criminal gang in a shootout on Sunday, the third violent incident within days amid widespread calls for stricter gun controls.
The battle erupted after gunmen in two vehicles tried to smash through a police checkpoint near the town of Atimonan, according to the national police headquarters’ operations centre.
A police statement said one senior police officer was wounded and taken to hospital, and 10 firearms were recovered from the gang members, including an M16 assault rifle.
Provincial police chief senior superintendent Val de Leon said the road block was put up following a tip-off from a police informant that the gang was to pass through the area on the way to Manila “to make a major hit”.
“The information we received came from a very reliable informer, and this is a big accomplishment,” de Leon said.
He said the army had also been told of the operation, and that some military personnel helped man the check point.
“We made sure that all escape routes are sealed,” de Leon said.
He said that as soon as troops and police flagged down the first vehicle, the gunmen aboard started shooting at them.
The initial burst of gunfire wounded superintendent Hansel Manahan, the police officer in charge of the operation in the town 173 kilometres southeast of Manila.
The incident occurred two days after a drug-crazed former village official went on a shooting rampage, killing seven people and wounding 12 others, some of whom have life-threatening injuries.
Rolando Bae was himself killed in a subsequent shootout with police.
Also last week two children aged seven and four were killed by stray bullets fired during celebratory gunfire to welcome the New Year.
The incidents triggered public condemnation and calls for stricter controls on gun ownership, with official statistics estimating there are nearly 600,000 unlicensed guns across the Philippines.
Some 1.2 million licensed firearms were on the registry as of this year.
Various civic groups as well as the influential Catholic church have called for a total ban on guns on the streets. President Benigno Aquino – himself a gun aficionado – has yet to respond to the demand.
Other groups called for the return of capital punishment, which the government banned in 2006.