Muslims have been waging jihad for decades in the Philippines in an attempt to establish their own Islamic state. The jihad worked and the area known as Muslim Mindanao was granted autonomy as an Islamic state…supposedly with overstate by the Philippines. The jihad never stopped and clearly the state has little control and the peace treaty is a one-way street. via Iqbal justifies attack; toll soars to 49 | Headlines, News, The Philippine Star | philstar.com. h/t TROP
Maguin-danao, Philippines – Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas were involved in the killing of 49 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos but the “unfortunate and saddening development” was due to the failure of the elite police unit to coordinate its activities with the rebel group, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohaquer Iqbal said yesterday.
Iqbal said fighting erupted before dawn Sunday when three SAF platoons intruded into a supposedly government-recognized guerilla enclave in Barangay Tukanalipao, supposedly to arrest Malaysian explosives expert Zulkifli Bin Hir and his Maguindanaon cohort, the long wanted Basit Usman.
He said the policemen should have coordinated their operations to arrest suspected terrorists in the area with the joint ceasefire committee and the International Monitoring Team (IMT).
A survivor whose identity was withheld said the Muslim rebels finished off many of his wounded comrades. He said he witnessed some of the gunmen firing several rounds at dead or wounded commandos.
“It was a misencounter that happened due to lack of coordination based on agreed security protocols,” Iqbal, concurrent presiding chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said.
Five MILF rebels were killed and a dozen others were reportedly injured in the encounter.
“It is unfortunate that some people died. It cannot be undone. Next time, it is important to have coordination so that these things won’t happen again,” he added.
A police official claimed one of the terrorists was already in the custody of the commandos before the fighting. It was not clear what happened to him in the ensuing chaos.
The fighting forced hundreds of families to flee their homes.
Philippine National Police office-in-charge Leonardo Espina and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II flew to Maguindanao yesterday to check on the situation.
In a statement, Espina said the police commandoes were chasing a “high-value target” believed to be behind recent bomb attacks in Mindanao. He did not elaborate.
Local officials said members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) joined the battle when a group of retreating policemen entered its stronghold in Barangay Mangapang.
BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama boasted Sunday night that its fighters surrounded about a dozen retreating policemen who had run out of ammunition.
Mama had also bragged about the BIFF’s killing more than a dozen SAF commandos.
He said BIFF members appropriated the firearms of the dead policemen as the bandits took new battle positions by dusk Sunday.
Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla, officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, said they have so far counted 20 fatalities, based on bodies recovered from the scene after the six-hour battle.
Sources said at least 37 SAF members were confirmed to have died in the fighting. Many of the dead were found in rice fields.
Armilla said they expect to find the remains of more commandos as government security forces expand their search.
“They already got the target but when they were about to leave the area they were engaged by lawless elements,” Armilla told The STAR.
Sources from the Maguindanao provincial police office in nearby Shariff Aguak town said the SAF contingent was looking for Zulkifli, alias Marwan, and his cohort, Usman.
Marwan is a known member of al-Qaeda’s Asian cell, the Jemaah Islamiyah. Usman, on the other hand, was said to have undergone training in the handling of explosives and fabrication of improvised bombs in Peshawar, Pakistan and in Kandahar, Afghanistan in the late 1980s.
Residents said MILF members from nearby villages arrived and engaged the SAF men in battle.
Only the names of 41 confirmed dead SAF men have been released as of press time.
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