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Police board of inquiry: SAF troops killed Marwan

MILF’s version of death disputed
By: - News Director / @MsArlyndelaCruz
/ 12:56 AM September 14, 2015
Benjamin Magalong

Director Benjamin Magalong, the former chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group who headed the board of inquiry that investigated the botched SAF operation, said Sunday he was standing by the police finding that Marwan was killed by the police commandos. JULLIANE LOVE DE JESUS/INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

The Philippine National Police insisted Sunday that commandos from its Special Action Force (SAF) killed Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in a raid on the Malaysian terrorist’s lair in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, in January.

Several PNP officials disputed the findings of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) investigative team that Marwan, for whose capture dead or alive the US government had offered a reward of $5 million, was most likely executed by his own aides.

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It was unclear whether the MILF findings, some of which were quoted by the Inquirer in a report published Sunday, were the “alternative truth” that President Aquino said, in a talk with this paper’s editors and reporters last Tuesday, the government was investigating.

Director Benjamin Magalong, the former chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) who headed the board of inquiry that investigated the botched SAF operation, said he was standing by the police finding that Marwan was killed by the police commandos.

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Magalong said the board, upon its creation a day after the clash, immediately opened an investigation and inspected the battlefield.

“Based on the evidence that we gathered, our SAF teams killed Marwan. They sacrificed so much and risked their lives. The SAF truly deserves the credit and all the honors,” he said.

No exchange of fire

The MILF report, however, indicated that Marwan was already dead when the SAF strike force arrived at his hut in Pembalkan village early on Jan. 25.

Contrary to the SAF’s report that Marwan was killed in an exchange of fire with the commandos, the MILF said there were no indications of a gun battle inside or outside the hut.

Its report said bullet holes on the hut’s walls were roughly 46 centimeters above the floor. Marwan could not have been hit if he was lying down. If he was standing, he would have been hit in lower parts of his body, not in the chest.

A picture of the dead Marwan published by the Inquirer on Jan. 30 showed him half-naked, with a bullet wound on his chest and his head lying on a pool of blood, which, according to the MILF report, indicated that Marwan was shot in the head, most likely from behind and as he lay face-down on the floor.

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2 aides

Who shot Marwan was never officially established by both police and MILF investigators.

But the Inquirer learned from a source in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and another from the MILF that Marwan’s aides, Datucan Singgagao and Candao Langalan, were the ones who killed him.

Their names do not appear in any investigation documents, according to the sources, but they said the secret SAF operation employed two government assets—Singgagao and Langalan—who were followers of Mohammad Ali Tambako, leader of a group that broke away from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

A splinter group of the MILF, the BIFF has been identified as the coddler of Marwan and his Filipino aide, Basit Usman.

Tambako was arrested by police and military operatives in General Santos City in March, while Usman was killed, reportedly by MILF guerrillas, in Guindulungan, Mamasapano, in May.

Foreigners involved

 

The military and MILF sources said Singgagao and Langalan were recruited not by the SAF but by a foreign agency that had a presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The plan was to get Marwan through the two assets. We know because the project was initially offered to us, but the consequences and the risks were too high that we did not take the mission,” the military source told the Inquirer.

The government and the MILF are observing a ceasefire. Mamasapano delayed the completion of a peace agreement that they signed last year.

The SAF accepted the mission because of the high level of confidence of its chief at the time, Director Getulio Napeñas, and that was because the SAF was armed with “precise intelligence information,” the source said.

The plan, the source said, was for commandos from the SAF’s 84th Seaborne unit to enter the hut in Pembalkan and find Marwan dead. But the plan changed, the source said.

When they got to the hut, the commandos executed their assets, but an aide to Marwan got away and alerted Usman, whose hut was less than 100 meters away. “That’s when all hell broke loose,” the source said.

Missing information

The military source said there was “vital information” that did not appear in any documents on the investigation: One of Marwan’s wives was in the hut.

“The truth is that Marwan was asleep, as he just had sex with his wife, when he was shot by his aides. This explains the MILF finding that he was shot at close range, and why he had no pants,” the source said.

The MILF source said his group had no information about Marwan’s wife, whether she was in the hut when the terrorist was killed or whether he just had sex with her when he was killed.

“What is clear is that Marwan did not die the way the SAF reported his death,” said the MILF source.

Magalong said the board of inquiry did not receive any evidence from the MILF that would support its claim about Marwan’s death. “Anybody can simply generate claims, allegations or false information and make it appear to be true,” he said.

“The burden of proof lies with that person who is making the claim,” said Magalong, who now heads the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, as he challenged those claiming that the SAF did not kill Marwan to show evidence.

He said the MILF never mentioned its findings at the Senate and House inquiries into the Mamasapano clash.

‘Only one truth’

In a recent interview with the Inquirer, Mohagher Iqbal, chief peace negotiator of the MILF, said in reaction to the President’s report of an “alternative truth” about Mamasapano, there was only one truth and it was in the MILF’s investigation report.

Napeñas, who did not give the MILF a heads-up on the SAF operation to keep it secret, a decision that backfired on the mission, also disputed the MILF’s findings.

“The only truth is Marwan was killed by the SAF and we have solid and very credible pieces of evidence and personnel who collected these are honorable and very credible officers,” he said in a telephone interview with Inquirer.net on Sunday.

Napeñas, who was sacked after the Mamasapano debacle and had since retired, challenged Iqbal to prove that Marwan was already dead when the commandos arrived at his hut.

“It is for the MILF and Iqbal to show [the] evidence. After all, they were the ones who were claiming that it was the aide who killed Marwan,” he said.

Director Virgilio Lazo, the new SAF chief, said the MILF report ran counter to the accounts of the commandos who survived the mission. “We are a little sad,” he said, referring to the survivors.

Insult to SAF 44

Magalong said that apart from being an attack on the PNP’s credibility, the claim that the SAF was not the killer of Marwan was an insult to the 44 police commandos who died in the daylong gun battle with Moro rebels, including fighters from the MILF, that followed the unraveling of the mission in Pembalkan.

“It was a very sincere effort on the part of the SAF. They sacrificed so much,” he said.

But Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the PNP, said that the police would comply with the President’s directive to “ferret out the truth in the Mamasapano incident.”

“What is contained in the [board of inquiry] report is reflective of its findings [at the time of the investigation],” Mayor said.—Julie M. Aurelio and Arlyn de la Cruz, Correspondent at large, with Julliane Love de Jesus, Inquirer.net

 

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TAGS: Benjamin Magalong, board of inquiry, Mamasapano clash, Marwan, MILF, PNP‎, Police, SAF
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