Friday, December 15, 2017
Close  
newsinfo / Editors' Picks
  • 0
    share this

What really happened, according to MILF, AFP, etc.

FALLEN COP Policemen carry the body bag of a comrade, one of 64 members of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police who died in a clash with Moro fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO

FALLEN COP Policemen carry the body bag of a comrade, one of 64 members of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police who died in a clash with Moro fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao—The Inquirer gathered information from different sources, including Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Murad Ebrahim, to piece together the events in this province that led to the deaths of 44 elite police commandos in a gun battle with Moro guerrillas on Sunday.

Murad said in a press conference on Wednesday that around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, MILF fighters from Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, heard bursts of gunfire from a nearby village that was at edge of the Liguasan marshland.

“They thought it was accidental. They didn’t know there was fighting,” Murad said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Around 6:30 a.m., shortly after their morning prayers at the mosque, the MILF fighters in Tukanalipao “noticed armed uniformed men approaching.”

Murad said it was the policemen from Special Action Force (SAF) who fired the first shot at members of the MILF 105th Base Command, igniting the firefight.

The MILF fighters thought they were engaging the Army but some noticed that their enemies wore a different uniform.

READ:#SAF44 memorial page; SAF chief: I am responsible

The battle area was a vast cornfield where the SAF commandos, reportedly unfamiliar with the terrain, ended up as sitting ducks for some 100 MILF fighters.

Murad said the MILF’s reinforcements started to arrive around 9 a.m.

A government source who asked not to be identified told the Inquirer that the SAF forces were divided into two units, the primary force and the secondary force.

Out to get Marwan

ADVERTISEMENT

The primary force was to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a bomb expert from the Indonesia-based, al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah on whose head the United States had placed a $6-million price.

The SAF had a secondary target, local terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, also a bomb expert and for whose capture the United States has offered a $3-million reward.

The secondary force was to “protect” the primary force.

READ: MILF chief: I’m still committed to peace

The source said the primary force believed they got Marwan and reportedly two other Indonesians, who have not been identified.

“They heard that a ‘Mads’ was killed in the area. Marwan is also known by that name,” the source said.

It was the secondary force that ended up fighting the MILF guerrillas from the 105th Base Command, the source added.

“The SAF is trained to shoot first and defend themselves,” the source said.

After several hours of fighting, the two sides deescalated with the help of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) but as the MILF withdrew, the source said, guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) opened fire on the SAF.

“The SAF was the best. In individual skills, they were the best. This shows that the incident was an operational disaster,” the source said.

READ: What price peace?; Aquino admits lack of coordination in Mamasapano clash

BIFF version

The BIFF had another version of what happened.

At the start, only BIFF guerrillas were involved in the incident, according to the group’s spokesperson, Abu Misri Mama.

When BIFF forces sensed that several “military vehicles” were coming in, they prepared an ambush, Mama said.

They opened fire as the convoy of trucks came in, Mama said, adding that the guerrillas used “assault rifles and other weapons the BIFF regularly uses.”

“Many of the casualties [fell] during the ambush,” he said.

The MILF said on its website that its forces in the area were drawn into the violence when SAF forces that came in through another route fired on the house of Imam Salman of the MILF 105th Base Command.

READ: MILF insists on 64 bodies found including guides, informants, militiamen

“MILF forces clashed with policemen, who were assigned at the right wing of operation,” the MILF said, probably referring to the secondary force.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, insisted that the SAF bypassed coordinating with them.

“If they only coordinated with us then this would not have happened,” Jaafar said.

He said that in the past, several operations launched by the military against targets that were within the known territories of the MILF were “successful because proper coordination was made.”

Jaafar said the MILF forces involved in Sunday’s incident did not mutilate the slain policemen’s bodies.

READ: Solons urged to continue supporting BBL despite Maguindanao clash

He explained that the guerrillas used high-caliber weapons, including .50-caliber machine guns, that can cut limbs.

“[T]hese rifles can even be used as antiaircraft weapons and they can easily cut hands or legs. These high-caliber rifles can also severely damage heads,” Jaafar said.

A local resident, Toks Amilil, said most of the policemen who were killed in the fighting had been hit in the head.

Military criticized

The military was heavily criticized on social media for not coming to the aid of the policemen.

But Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson for the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said troops from the 45th Infantry Battalion were ready to respond but could not move out of lack of information.

READ: Wailing, weeping, anger as fallen heroes arrive

“When you go to war you should have a plan, and you should plan for the worst. And this is the problem. How will the military reinforce [the SAF] if we do not have details?” Petinglay said.

“There were so many questions. We do not even know where to rescue them,” she said.

Sources said the noise of the fighting could be heard from the nearest detachment of the 45th IB, which is about 4 to 5 kilometers away from the site of the fighting.

By noon, they said, tanks and trucks carrying heavily armed troops were ready to move out.

But there were unanswered questions: Where exactly was the fighting taking place? How many friendly forces were in the area? Who were they fighting?

Apparently, the lack of coordination from the SAF put other security forces on the blind side, leaving them with nothing to do but wait for further information, one source said.

Chief Supt. Getulio Napeñas, the sacked commander of the SAF, admitted bypassing the military and the MILF to avoid alerting Marwan.

READ: Dead SAF’s kin ask why, how

Purisima’s role?

Napeñas, according to Inquirer sources, admitted to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas that he coordinated the operation with Director General Alan Purisima, the suspended PNP chief.

One source said Napeñas made the admission during a closed-door meeting with senior police officials in Cotabato City on Monday.

During the meeting, the source said, Napeñas disclosed that Sunday’s operation was the fourth attempt by the SAF to serve warrants of arrest on Marwan and Usman.

Answering a question from Roxas, Napeñas, according to the source, said he coordinated the operation with Purisima.

Roxas, who according to the source tried to be calm during the meeting, bluntly asked Napeñas why he was not informed about the operation.

READ: Espina: PNP unaware of SAF operation, to probe lapsesSAF commander sacked

“I am the SILG (Secretary of the Interior and Local Government) [but] I was not aware of this operation [that] involved 400 policemen,” Roxas said.

“Is the guidance to keep this from the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines)? Is the guidance to keep this from the hierarchy of the PNP?” he asked.

Napeñas, known to be a trusted subordinate of Purisima, himself a former SAF officer, said he had recommended to President Aquino to inform the military in the area about the operation.

Animosity

A former SAF commander, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the animosity between Purisima and Roxas was to blame for what could be the worst debacle in the history of the SAF.

The source said Purisima “directed” the operation by “remote control” from his office at Camp Crame, the PNP national headquarters in Quezon City.

“Purisima had long suspected that Roxas was behind his suspension. He kept the intelligence report about Marwan to himself because he wanted all the accolades if the operation would be successful,” the source said.

READ:Eid Kabalu doubts MILF didn’t know Marwan’s presence

Why Purisima?

“Now that it resulted in a black eye for the PNP, will he be man enough to admit his mistake? His immediate superior is Mar Roxas, being the secretary of the [Department of the Interior and Local Government]. It’s a mortal sin for him to keep the operation secret from his immediate boss,” the source said.

But why Purisima was involved was unclear.

“The SAF coordinated with Purisima. Was it for money? But others said it was probably for redemption. But the latter theory is not clear because Purisima won’t be able to claim the glory if the operation was successful,” another source said.

At best, the source said, Purisima was looking for redemption, which would mean regaining the trust of the President, who had been defending him from the corruption allegations for which the Ombudsman ordered his suspension.

 

MILF probe

Murad said the MILF had formed an investigative body to look into the incident.

“First and foremost, we express and send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who died in the armed encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao,” Murad said in a signed statement released to reporters on Wednesday.

READ:MILF chief: I’m still committed to peace

“Our concern is the truth. There will be a lot of speculation as to what happened, and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland,” Murad said.

He said the MILF’s Special Investigative Commission (SIC), to be composed of members of the Central Committee and the General Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, would open the investigation soon.

“The mandate of the SIC is to gather as much reliable information and interview witnesses to establish the truth,” Murad said.

The SIC has been instructed to submit a report to the Central Committee “as soon as possible,” he said.

“We hereby reiterate the MILF’s full commitment to the peace process with the Philippine government. An enduring peace and justice remain to be our primary objective,” Murad said. With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez, Williamor Magbanua, Germelina Lacorte and Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: AFP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Liguasan Marshland, Maguindanao province, Mamasapano, MILF, MILF fighters, Moro Guerillas, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.




© Copyright 1997-2016 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved