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MILF reveals results of probe into Al-Barka massacre

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines—After months of keeping mum on the results of a multilateral investigation into the so-called  Al-Barka Massacre in Basilan that was blamed on Moro rebels, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has finally disclosed part of the findings to the public.

At least 19 soldiers fresh out of training were killed and more than a dozen other soldiers and rebels were  wounded in a clash between government forces and MILF guerrillas in Al-Barka, Basilan, last October.

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The MILF said in a statement posted on its website this week that the International Monitoring Team, which conducted the investigation with authority from both the Philippine government and the MILF,  found the military liable for at least 10 ceasefire violations. These included non-coordination with the MILF before the military launched an operation against a terrorist group that entailed passing through a rebel held area.

The MILF said one ceasefire violation was ascribed to it but the statement did not say what it was.

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In the same statement, the MILF also challenged the government to court-martial three military officials as recommended in the IMT investigation report.

The three, Colonels Aminkadra Undog and Alexander Macario, and Lieutenant Colonel Leo Peña, the MILF said, were found responsible for the fiasco.

Undog used to head the Army Special Forces Regiment while Macario was head of the Special Operations Task Force Basilan. Peña used to head the 4th Special Forces Battalion, which was in charge of the troops deployed during the operation.

Abdulla Camlian, a member of the MILF peace panel, said the court-martial proceedings would show that the government was committed to the probe’s findings and recommendations.

He said that as far as the rebels were concerned, the MILF has carried out the sanctions recommended against three guerrilla commanders “implicated for wrongdoing in relation to the armed encounter.”

Camlian said Dan Laksaw Asnawi, deputy commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces in Basilan, and two other unidentified guerrilla commanders were suspended for three months, and made to undergo education on the ceasefire provisions, human rights, and international humanitarian laws.

On Wednesday, Army chief Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista told reporters in Manila that a pre-trial panel had found sufficient ground to bring the case against the three military officers to trial by a court martial.

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Bautista said the officers will be charged with “violation of Article of War 97 or conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline in conjunction with criminal negligence under Article 365 in the Revised Penal Code.”

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TAGS: Armed conflict, Ceasefire Violations, International Monitoring Team, MILF, Military, Mindanao, Moro Insurgency, Peace Talks
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