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NBI talks to MILF fighter turned gov’t witness

He can name Fallen 44 killers, say sources
/ 12:49 AM February 28, 2015
Police load into the truck a body bag of their comrade during a retrieval operation on Jan. 26 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province. A veteran fighter of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front who can identify the MILF members who participated in the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, in which 44 police commandos were killed, is now talking to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), sources have told the Inquirer.  JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO

Police load into the truck a body bag of their comrade during a retrieval operation on Jan. 26 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province. A veteran fighter of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front who can identify the MILF members who participated in the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, in which 44 police commandos were killed, is now talking to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), sources have told the Inquirer. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO FILE PHOTO

KORONADAL, South Cotabato—A veteran fighter of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who can identify the MILF members who participated in the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, in which 44 police commandos were killed, is now talking to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), sources have told the Inquirer.

The MILF-combatant-turned-government-witness is close to terrorist Basit Usman, the second terrorist, aside from the Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” that the Special Action Force (SAF) mission had set out to capture or kill on Jan. 25, according to the sources.

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The witness was at the scene when the SAF commandos, following the successful neutralization of Marwan, were set upon by gunmen from the MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and unidentified private armed groups, resulting in the killing of 44 police commandos, 18 MILF rebels and about five civilians.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and prosecutors from the Department of Justice led by Juan Pedro Navera have personally interviewed the witness in an undisclosed place in Mindanao, according to the sources who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to talk to the media.

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De Lima arrived in South Cotabato on Friday, joining the DOJ prosecutors and NBI investigators who have been here since Thursday, to conduct an ocular inspection of the Mamasapano clash site and interview witnesses. However, they were not able to proceed to Mamasapano on Friday because of the ongoing Army offensive against Moro rebels.

Names of MILF fighters

The sources said that the witness, apart from his personal knowledge of the Mamasapano incident, also included in his statement the names of MILF combatants who participated in the fighting.

“He has given his statement, including a list of names of other MILF fighters to the NBI and DOJ prosecutors,” one source said.

“The witness had been a member of the MILF combat troops for the past 10 years and personally knows most of [the MILF] members who participated in the clash,” the source added.

Fears for his life

The MILF fighter decided to talk to the government because he feared for his life and because of pressure from his family, the source said.

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“He feared for his life and that of his family because he personally knows Usman and vice versa, that is why he decided to turn himself in to the NBI for protection,” the source explained.

“Basit and the MILF fighter know each other personally,” one of the sources said.

The source could not say why the MILF fighter chose to go to the government instead of the MILF leadership.

Clamming up

De Lima was noncommittal when asked about the MILF fighter now talking to the NBI, saying only that she and her party were here “accessing witnesses.”

Navera was not forthcoming about the subject either. But he said that since the DOJ-NBI group arrived here on Thursday, they were able to speak to several witnesses.

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez also clammed up when asked about the MILF fighter his men are reportedly interviewing.

De Lima said the DOJ-NBI investigation would be “thorough, objective and balanced.”

“We want to know how some of the casualties died particularly the civilians, whether they were caught in the crossfire or deliberate killings and who did it,” she said.

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TAGS: Mamasapano clash, MILF, NBI, SAF Commandos, State witness
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