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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MILF justifies SAF 44 slay


PNP SAF UNIFORMS



MANILA, Philippines - The police commandos fired first and broke a ceasefire, they used dead comrades as shields, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not coddle two top terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
These are among the points raised in the report that the MILF finally submitted to the Senate yesterday, in which the rebel group effectively justified the killing of 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and the looting of their firearms, equipment and personal effects on Jan. 25.
The MILF report was submitted to the office of Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs which investigated the Mamasapano incident.
While admitting the use of the high-powered Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle, the MILF insisted that no unnecessary force or methods against international rules on warfare were used, and the MILF fighters used “their advantages to the fullest.”
“Reports about mutilation, beheading and willful killing are unfounded,” the report stated.
Chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the report, based on the findings of the rebel group’s special investigating commission formed to look into the encounter, was submitted upon Poe’s request.
Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
He added that the report was also submitted to Maj. Gen. Dato Sheik Mokhsin Sheik Hassan, head of mission of the International Monitoring Team in Cotobato City last March 22.
“We trust that this report is treated with fairness, and we hope that all the information provided therein will be helpful in your evaluation of the incident,” Iqbal said in the transmittal letter to the Senate.
The MILF’s special investigative commission was headed by Said Abdulsalam, with Hussein Munoz, Toks Ebrahim, Von Al Haq and Abu Ubaidah Agkong as members.
The investigative commission interviewed field commanders involved in the incident, relatives of the alleged victims and verified information in the field.
The SAF troopers launched the operation to get Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman in Mamasapano.
The commandos killed Marwan but Usman escaped.
SAF troopers later clashed with MILF rebels, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups that resulted in the death of 44 policemen, 18 rebels and five civilians.
In the 35-page report submitted to the Senate, the MILF justified the move to fire at the SAF troopers because the rebels were attacked by the 55th Special Action Company.
The report said without prior coordination, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF did not know that the forces in Sitio Amilil were government forces with whom there is a ceasefire agreement.
The MILF could not do anything but fire back after they were fired upon near the wooden bridge, the report read.
Two men were killed instantly in the assault of the SAF troopers.
“Granting, without admitting, that there is any liability on the part of the 105th Co. (MILF) for the violation of the ceasefire, the disciplinary action should be carried out by the MILF,” it added, citing the implementing operational guidelines of the general cessation of hostilities.
The team also declared that the encounter is not an ordinary crime but a direct armed confrontation between the parties that have signed a ceasefire agreement.
“As to the matter of liability for commission of acts that are violative of international humanitarian law, there is no evidence that would show this,” the team said.
The evidence maintained that the MILF was not responsible for the acts but, apparently, the BIFF.
The team also recommended that the MILF should even file a protest for the violation of the ceasefire by the SAF.
“Without the coordination, the gun battle was inevitable when two armed groups crossed paths, especially after the BIAF was fired upon by the PNP-SAF,” the report read.
They also want Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan to be probed after the team found out that the SAF commando killed four combatants who were sleeping in a makeshift mosque in Baragay Tukanalipao, a day after the bloody carnage with the SAF troopers.
The group cited international law where the MILF would be considered “hors de combat” as they were not in the position to assault Lalan.
It also cited possible violations of the prior additional protocol of the Geneva Convention of Aug. 12, 1945 and related provisions of the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts.
A person is classified as “hors de combat” if he is in the power of an adverse party; clearly expresses an intention to surrender or he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds, sickness and so incapable of defending himself.
The MILF probe team also justified the taking of so-called spoils of the war.
“While taking of war booties is justified in international law, in the interest of peace, these were returned to the government. It should also be noted that other armed groups and ordinary civilians took the firearms and other personal effects of the killed SAF,” it added.
“Hence, the MILF can only return those that were taken by the combatants,” it added.

Superior number
“The superior number of MILF forces, familiarity with the terrain, coupled with their high caliber firearms, gave the MILF forces advantage and they eventually subdued the 55th SAC,” the report said.
The gunfight “waned at around 1300H (1 p.m.), some of the BIAF forces went inside the cornfield where the 55th SAC were positioned purposely to retrieve the dead bodies of their comrades to comply with the Islamic tradition to bury the dead within 24 hours,” the report added.
It took 20 minutes for the MILF rebels to retrieve the bodies of their comrades.
In the process, the suspects – numbering about 100 MILF men – also took the “opportunity to collect war booties.”
At this time, 17 MILF members were killed in the exchange of gunfire.
Some of the fatalities were identified as Sueb Kamod, Nasrudib Saptula, Abdulrahman Abdullah and Esmail, Kaharodin Baluno Mahmod Saga and Salahudin Camin.
The fighting supposedly stopped after the MILF men received a call from 105th Co. commander Zacaria Goma informing them about the imposition of a ceasefire.
Goma also ordered the MILF combatants to pull out from the area, read the report, which did not directly name the group leader who was involved in the encounter with the 55th SAC.
As the MILF was withdrawing from the site, it was noted in the report that the 55th SAC commandos’ bodies “were found underneath one another as if purposely piled.”
“They noticed that the dead bodies sustained multiple gunshot wounds. They realized later from the position of the dead and the number of wounds of some 55th SAC men that some of them had used the bodies of their dead comrades as shield during the intense fighting,” the report read, which was lifted from statements of the MILF rebels involved in the encounter.
It also mentioned that while the MILF withdrew from Sitio Amilil, the combatants recognized armed men from the BIFF moving towards the encounter site.
The MILF findings contradicted the Senate’s, where the 44 slain members of the 55th SAC and the 84th Seaborne were said to have been “massacred” by the gunmen.
The Special Investigating Team also reported that four MILF men identified as Musib Kasim, Mamarisa Sandigan, Rasul Kamsa and Norhamid Angkay were killed a day after the encounter while in a small mosque locally called “langgal.”
According to witness Melgar Sailila, he and the four men went back to his house in Amilil after the firefight. They rested after lunch, and prayed in the langgal at about noon.
At about 1 p.m. they were attacked by a SAF member later identified through photographs as PO2 Lalan.
At around 2 p.m., Lalan also engaged armed men identified as Sheik Abdullah and Mohammad Ambilang in a firefight.
Ambilang was killed while others escaped, the report said.
Lalan has been tagged at the lone survivor of the 36-member 55th SAC, which served as the blocking force of the 84th Seaborne.
Thirteen members of the Seaborne led by Supt. Raymond Train was the team that neutralized Malaysian terrorist Marwan, who was subject of Operation Plan Exodus.
The MILF report focused on issues of what happened during the encounter with the SAF on Jan. 25. It also looked into the lapses that were committed in heeding the call for ceasefire, as well as whether the MILF violated the Code of Conduct regarding mutilation and desecration of the dead.
It also determined whether or not the MILF committed other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and if the men took the guns and personal effects of the SAF.
It also addressed the question of why the taking of war booty was justified.
The MILF probe team disputed the video showing the killing of PO2 Joseph Sagonoy of the 55th SAC.
“A scrutiny of the viral video showing the killing of Joseph Sagonoy does not clearly identify the killer as one of the members of the MILF,” it said.
“Even if the allegation that the firearm of Sagonoy is one of the 16 firearms returned by the MILF to the government, this does not prove that the killer of Sagonoy was a BIAF member,” it added.
“The taking of the firearm is different from the act of killing,” the report said, noting further that armed men looted the area after the encounter.
SAF chief issues denial
SAF director Chief Supt. Moro Virgilio Lazo, who took over the helm of the elite police unit amid the controversy on the SAF operation, vehemently denied that a SAF officer wined and dined soldiers on the eve of the Mamasapano raid.
Lazo said he conducted his own investigation on the allegations of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that SAF officers invited and treated Army commanders to dinner and drinks on the night of Jan. 24.
“There’s no truth to that,” Lazo told The STAR, referring to Trillanes’ allegation. “Under SAF protocol, troopers are placed on isolation to ensure they are ready for the operation and no information will be leaked.”
Lazo claimed his own investigation proved that no SAF officer went out the night before the SAF mission to arrest Marwan and Usman.
The SAF chief, however, refused to elaborate.
He also noted that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin could have been misinformed when he told the media that a member of the SAF had invited 45th IB commander Lt. Col. Romeo Bautista and 601st Brigade commander Col. Melquiades Feliciano to dinner.
Instead, Lazo urged Trillanes to ask Bautista and Feliciano to identify the officer of the PNP who had dinner with them.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said over P12 million more in donations will be given to the relatives of the SAF commandos who were killed and wounded in the Mamasapano encounter.
The PNP clarified that the donations will be separate from the benefits that the relatives of the 44 slain SAF commandos would receive from the government – a total P66.37 million.
Officials said P34.57 million of the P66.37 million has been given to the families so far, mostly coming from the Presidential Social Fund, the PNP, the National Police Commission and the Public Safety Mutual Benefit Fund Inc.
PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the P12 million was deposited by well-meaning individuals and groups in a bank account opened by the PNP at the Landbank of the Philippines to help the SAF and their families. 
Source:http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/03/25/1437257/milf-justifies-saf-44-slay



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