Military exec says sorry for kids’ deaths in clash
ZAMBOANGA CITY—A top Army official here said the military regretted the deaths of two children during an operation against Abu Sayyaf bandits in Tabuan Lasa town in Basilan province last week.
“I feel very bad until now. I am really very sorry over the [deaths of the] two [children]. They were caught in the crossfire,” Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command, told the Inquirer.
The main target in the raid was Mubin Kulin alias Mulawin, a cousin of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and who was behind several kidnapping cases.
Galvez said the military received reports that almost 100 Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf members were seen on Tapiantana Island in Tabuan Lasa.
He said government troops organized a team to arrest Kulin in Tabuan Lasa but the soldiers were met with gunfire from about 30 bandits.
“That firefight allowed the escape of Kulin and his men,” he said. Galvez’s information corrected earlier reports saying Kulin was killed in that operation.
Galvez said it was only after the firefight that the troops learned about the deaths of two children.
“We did not expect children [to be] in that place,” Galvez said.
He promised that the military would help the families of civilians caught in the crossfire.
Dr. Arlyn Jumao-as, executive director of the group, Save the Children from Armed Conflict in Basilan, identified the victims as 1-year-old Nurmaida Abbi and Ashab Abulhairie, 12.
Two other adults were killed—Hadji Billamin Hassan and Nuruddin Musaddul Muhlis.
Human rights group Suara Bangsamoro condemned the incident, saying it considered the killing of Hassan as a case of “extrajudicial killing.”
“According to his wife, he was still alive when the raiding team took him [and left aboard a] naval gunboat,” Suara Bangsamoro chair Amirah Lidasan said in a statement.
Lidasan said Hassan had bullet wounds in the chest and shoulder, and bruises on his face.
“During the raid, the military sprayed bullets on at least three adjoining houses, hitting residents who were sleeping, some saying the Fajr (dawn) prayer,” Lidasan said. —JULIE S. ALIPALA
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