Posts Tagged ‘General Santos City’

Philippines: Journalist gunned down

August 7, 2017
Volunteer reporter Leodoro Diaz died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds sustained in the attack in a Sultan Kudarat town. The killing happened in broad daylight amid martial law, which prohibits non-military and police personnel from carrying guns outside the house. File
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SULTAN KUDARAT — Two men on a motorcycle shot dead early Monday in President Quirino town a volunteer radio reporter and columnist of a local weekly newspaper.

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Senior Supt. Raul Supiter, director of the Sultan Kudarat provincial police, said Leodoro Diaz died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds sustained in the attack.
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Diaz was a volunteer reporter of a broadcast outfit in Cotabato City, the station dxMY of the Radio Mindanao Network.
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He was also a columnist of the Sapol tabloid published weekly in General Santos City, about three hours away via overland travel from President Quirino, his hometown.
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Diaz was on his way to Tacurong City from his home in Barangay Katiku, President Quirino when two bikers trailing behind overtook, block his path and shot him with pistols, killing him on the spot.
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Benjie Caballero, a broadcast journalist based in Tacurong City, said Diaz was a hard-hitting tabloid columnist.
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“We are urging the police to investigate on his murder in broad daylight at a time when Mindanao is under martial law that prohibits non-military and police personnel from carrying guns outside of houses,” Caballero, a long time friend of Diaz, told The STAR.
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Diaz was the third journalist killed in Sultan Kudarat province in about 15 years.
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Marlene Esperat, also a columnist of a local newspaper, and radio reporter Amy Corpuz were also killed by hired killers.
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Supiter said personnel of the President Quirino municipal police are still trying to determine the identities of the two men behind the murder of Diaz and their real motive for the attack.
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“Let’s give them enough time to identify the perpetrators of this crime for them to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law,” Supiter said.
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Haze and smoke crisis could persist into new year, say experts — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore all impacted

October 20, 2015

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Indonesia smoke — Smoke rising from fires burning at a concession area in Pelalawan, Riau province

The fires raging in forests and peatland across Indonesia, which produce the thick haze that has spread across South-east Asia in recent weeks, are unlikely to be put out in the next month or two.

This means the crisis could persist into the new year, experts said, as the latest reports show hot spots emerging in 18 provinces in the archipelagic state in the past few days.

“Maybe it will last until December and January,” Dr Herry Purnomo of the Centre for International Forestry Research said in a Reuters report yesterday. He added that there were also hot spots in Papua, a region usually spared such fires, because “people are opening new agriculture areas, like palm oil”.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo inspects a peatland clearing that was engulfed by fire during an inspection of a firefighting operation to control agricultural and forest fires in Banjar Baru in Southern Kalimantan province on Borneo island on Sept 23, 2015. AFP photo

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry yesterday said it was still investigating the cause of the fires in Papua. But its director-general of law enforcement, Mr Rasio Ridho Sani, said this year’s fires have reached an unprecedented level.

“We have never imagined we would ever see those lines of hot spots in Sulawesi and Papua,” he told reporters, pointing to a hot- spot map during the briefing.

The smouldering haze from the fires has spread across many parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was quoted in an Agence France-Presse report as saying that he expects the crisis to continue for another month. “Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires.”

Indonesian national disaster management agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told The Straits Times: “Rain will start in December. It is impossible that we will still have the haze problem in January.”

Meanwhile, three cities on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao were also covered by thick smoke. Weather forecaster Gerry Pedrico told the  that the haze had been covering the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos since last Saturday.

The end of Indonesia’s annual dry spell in October is usually marked by the start of the rainy season.

But the dry weather in Indonesia this year has been exacerbated by an extended El Nino season. This has made it harder to put out the fires, despite multinational firefighting operations in South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan – two of the worst-hit provinces in Indonesia.

Yesterday, a state of emergency was declared in North Sulawesi, which opened the doors for Jakarta to help contain the fires there.

Indonesian soldier watches as a helicopter water bomber releases its cargo over a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau, Sumatra

A water bomber that can carry 4,300 litres of water was being prepared for deployment in the province, one of the latest to be hit by fires, said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Her ministry yesterday also revoked the licences of two plantation companies and suspended four firms for allegedly using fire to clear land. It also ordered another four companies to procure adequate equipment to prevent and douse fires on their concessions.

Mr Tri Budiarto, who is in charge of emergency response at BNPB, said the forecast from Indonesia’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency indicates that in about a week, areas south of the Equator, which include South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, should see rainfall.

“If this proves to be true later, God willing, our firefighting operations would get a lift,” he said.

The haze crisis seems to be showing no signs of abating, but the Joko Widodo government is doing all it can to resolve the fires, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said in Singapore yesterday.

Mr Luhut, who was speaking at the RSIS-Brookings-KADIN Distinguished Public Lecture, said on the sidelines of the event that two Russian-made Beriev Be-200 water bombers will be deployed today in South Sumatra’s Ogan Komering Ilir regency.

A general view of the causeway from Singapore to Johor Bahru (background) is obscured by haze on June 21, 2013. (AFP Photo) Many in Singapore say this year’s smoke is getting just this bad.

He will also be heading to areas badly hit by forest fires in South Sumatra today. “I will be there to see the progress of the firefighting operations and also get a briefing on the effectiveness of water bombing,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2015, with the headline ‘Haze crisis could persist into new year, say experts’.
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A Doctor in Singapore told peace and freedom today that “the smoke and haze is now harmful to millions of lives.”
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Indonesia fires can’t be put out, Malaysian minister warns

October 19, 2015

AFP

Monday, October 19, 2015

Facing growing pressure, Indonesia earlier this month agreed to accept international help after failing for weeks to douse the fires from slash-and-burn farming that have shrouded angry neighbours Malaysia and Singapore in smoke for weeks

International efforts to douse raging Indonesia fires will fail and Southeast Asia could face several more weeks of choking smoke until the rainy season starts, Malaysia’s environment minister warned on Monday.
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Facing growing pressure, Indonesia earlier this month agreed to accept international help after failing for weeks to douse the fires from slash-and-burn farming that have shrouded angry neighbours Malaysia and Singapore in smoke for weeks.
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But Malaysia was forced once again to close schools in several areas Monday due to unhealthy air, and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the crisis could continue for another month.
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“Unless there is rain, there is no way human intervention can put out the fires,” he told AFP on the sidelines of Malaysia’s parliament session, warning that the blazes were spread across “huge areas” of Indonesia.
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Even the multi-nation effort now under way “is not enough to put out the fires,” he added.
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“We hope the rains will come in mid-November. It will be able to put out the fires,” Wan Junaidi said.
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On Friday, Indonesia launched its biggest fire-fighting assault yet, with dozens of planes and thousands of troops battling the illegally started agricultural and forest fires in its territory on the huge islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
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Thirty-two planes and helicopters — including six aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia — were deployed to back up more than 22,000 personnel on the ground.
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The fires and resulting region-wide haze are an annual dry-season problem, but experts warn the current outbreak is on track to become the worst ever, exacerbated by tinder-dry conditions from the El Nino weather phenomenon.
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The acrid air has sparked health alerts, sent thousands to hospitals for respiratory problems, and caused the cancellation of scores of flights and some major international events across the region.
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Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho also offered sobering comments Monday, saying the fires were “yet to be overcome.”
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Sutopo said satellite data indicated Indonesia now had more than 1,500 “hotspots”, which are loosely defined as areas where fires are either burning or where conditions are ripe for blazes to break out.
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“The actual number is higher as the satellite is not able to penetrate the thickness of the haze in Sumatra and (Borneo),” he added.
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Malaysia enjoyed a brief spell of lowered haze last week, but the government — which has repeatedly ordered school closures across wide areas as a health precaution — did so again on Monday as skies once again reverted to the now-familiar soupy gray.
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Schools were closed in several states and in the capital Kuala Lumpur as pollution levels climbed well into the “unhealthy” range under the government’s rating system.
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Air quality in Singapore, however, improved Monday after entering “unhealthy” levels over the weekend.
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Haze from Indonesia blankets Mindanao cities

October 19, 2015

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BLOCKING the sun and the usual clear blue sky, a thick haze, believed to be caused by the wildfires in Indonesia, blankets Davao City since last week. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration Davao Region said Typhoon “Lando’s” movement contributed to this phenomena. KARLOS MANLUPIG/INQUIRER MINDANAO

DAVAO CITY—A thick haze believed caused by forest fires in Indonesia, now blankets the skies in this city and some parts of Mindanao.

Gerry Pedrico of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration in Southern Mindanao told the Inquirer that the station in Davao region had been monitoring the haze in the past few days.

Related on October 23, 2015:

“We were able to see the haze over Davao City since Saturday (Oct. 17),” Pedrico said.

Pedrico explained that haze is usually formed by the accumulation of smoke and particles like dust in the air.

He added that the ongoing atmospheric phenomena in the region was caused by smoke from the wildfires in Sumatra, Indonesia, that started to spread last month.

Typhoon “Lando” (international name: Koppu), which is battering Luzon, contributed to the phenomena, he said.

Residents, however, need not worry about health risks that the haze could bring, he said.

“The smoke is actually up in the sky and there will be no health risks. There is no reason to be alarmed,” Pedrico explained.

The same phenomena is experienced in General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro City and nearby towns.

Pedrico said they could not say precisely when the haze would clear out and give way to the normal blue skies.

“We really do not now but it will also go away,” Pedrico said. Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/732736/haze-from-indonesia-blankets-mindanao-cities#ixzz3p2ToRyyU
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The Philippines: Police Death Toll Now 49 After 11-Hour Gunbattle With Muslim Rebels

January 26, 2015

 

Manila (Philippines) (AFP) – Forty-nine Philippine police commandos were killed when they clashed with Muslim rebels in the south, police said Monday, a bloodbath which tested a peace accord signed last March.

An 11-hour gunbattle broke out after police entered the remote town of Mamasapano, held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), around 3:00 am Sunday (1900 GMT Saturday) without coordinating with the rebels as required under their ceasefire agreement.

The bodies of 49 police have been recovered from the town on Mindanao island and moved to an army camp, regional police spokeswoman Judith Ambong told AFP.

Philippine police encountered and clashed with MILF fighters in exchanges which lasted for 12 hours [Getty Images]

She did not say whether any MILF members were killed.

Police had been targeting two high-profile terror suspects in the operation.

“This is going to be a big problem,” the MILF’s chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told AFP when asked how the fighting would affect the peace process.

But he and government officials said the ceasefire still held.

Philippine national police chief Leonardo Espina and interior and local government secretary Manuel Roxas flew to Maguindanao on Mindanao island on Monday.

In a statement Espina said the police commandos were chasing a “high-value target” believed to be behind recent bomb attacks in the south. He did not elaborate.

Iqbal said they were trying to arrest a member of regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah called Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, among the United States’ most wanted with a $5 million bounty for his capture.

Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli is the most prominent of the 10 to 12 foreign JI members believed hiding in the Philippines. He went into hiding in the southern region in 2003 and has since been training local militants, according to the military.

Authorities were also allegedly targeting Basit Usman, commander of the BIFF Philippine Muslim rebel faction that is not part of peace talks.

Ceasefire monitors are investigating the incident, Iqbal said.

– ‘Not logical’ to delay peace process –

The 10,000-member MILF had agreed to end decades of rebellion in the mainly Catholic nation in exchange for a proposed law now being debated in parliament that would give minority Muslims self-rule in several southern provinces.

The rebels were scheduled to start disarming at the start of this year under the peace treaty.

“This is the first encounter between the MILF and (government forces) this year. Hopefully, this will be the last,” Iqbal said.

“We are committed (to the peace process). For the MILF, the ceasefire still holds,” he said.

The rebel group’s vice chairman, Ghazali Jaafar, said the peace treaty signed last March was the only solution to the conflict.

“It is not logical for anybody to delay the process,” he told reporters by phone.

Sunday’s bloodbath highlighted “security challenges” but nonetheless strengthened the resolve of negotiators, government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

Over 1,000 people displaced by the violence have begun returning to their homes after the fighting stopped Sunday afternoon, mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan said.

The firefight in Mamasapano was only the second since the ceasefire. Two soldiers and 18 Muslim gunmen were killed in a clash on the southern island of Basilan in April 2014.

The Muslim rebellion in Mindanao had claimed tens of thousands of lives over several decades.

Since the peace deal was struck, troops and police have been pursuing the BIFF, a group of several hundred Muslim gunmen who reject the peace treaty.

Last year the BIFF pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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Top Terrorist Killed in Philippines Before 30 Police Killed in Fire Fight

January 26, 2015

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(philstar.com) |

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The members of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF) killed a top Jemaah Islamiyah operative before they were assaulted by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Sunday.

“The Maguindanao [incident] is a PNP operation of high-value [targets], as initial reports, they were able to neutralize one of them, ‘Marwan’ (Zulkifli bin Hir) although Basit Usman, managed to escape,” the Philippine News Agency quoted Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as saying on Monday.

Gazmin clarified that the government is still verifying the report through other sources.

Marwan, who is wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation with a $15-million bounty, is reportedly behind the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has claimed responsibility for the spate of bombings in Maguindanao.

He had been reported killed in 2012, but no body was recovered until he resurfaced in Mindanao.

Earlier reports said the SAF members were serving a warrant of arrest for Marwan at the residence of a Muslim cleric named Imam Manan, a senior official of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, in Barangay Tukanilap.

Local residents said MILF rebels attacked when the SAF members opened fire at the house of the cleric.

Reports also said that the BIFF ambushed the retreating SAF members in Barangay Mangapang.

Pope kill plot

Sources from the intelligence community confirmed having checked on the report that Marwan’s alleged number one student in handling improvised explosives device (IED) traveled to Leyte ahead of the Pope’s Francis visit last January 17.

The suspect was supposed to carry out a terror plot during the Pope’s visit in Tacloban City, but it was aborted because of the sudden change in the Roman Pontiff’s schedule  due to Tropical Storm “Amang.”

Aside from the information on the plan of Marvan’s group, authorities also checked every information on supposed plans to disrupt the pope’s visit in the Philippines last week.

From the Rajah Solaiman Movement, the Al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiya to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the joint task force of military and police tasked to secure Pople Francis conducted round-the-clock verification of information, random checks and raids.

“We cannot let our guards down. We looked at all the information, validated all, dispatched people to make sure that nothing tragic will happen to the Pope,” said a top military official privy to the intensified security operations on the ground.

Among the groups monitored by the joint task force, included members of the Balik Islam group, the Rajah Solaiman Group and the Jemaah Islamiya, which gained notoriety during the Rizal Day attacks in 2000 and other atrocities as well as some personalities linked to the ISIS.

On the day that Pope Francis arrived Manila on Jan. 15, security forces also looked into an extremist group, Boko Haram, said to be a terrorist, militant and Islamist movement based in Nigeria and linked to Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Hours before the Pope’s arrival, intelligence operatives acted on a report that an alleged supporter of the ISIS identified as Nicasio Dajoyag was holed up in a house in Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City, but the police and military operatives came out empty handed.

Police and military teams were also dispatched at a reported Strike Wing School in Bulacan and Visayas Aerospeace School in Iloilo to verify reports about the presence of two Nigerian nationals believed to be part of Boko Haram.

Three days prior to the Pope’s arrival on January 15, joint police and military operatives swooped down on various alleged safe houses in eastern and southern parts of Metro Manila that resulted in the arrest of suspects Norberto Paranga Jr., Justo Sultan and Robert Raton.

“The preempted operation under Oplan Lambat-Sibat was conducted to eliminate all probable threats against the Pope and his delegation,” documents showed.

The military and police received information that Paranga was planning to launch a “test mission in January 2015,” which coincides with the papal visit.

Paranga is a bemedaled military officer, who earned intensified training, including VIP protection, intelligence-gathering and marksmanship, apparently before he went ashtray from military service.  The arrests were conducted under the so-called Operation Plan Lambat-Sibat.

His name earlier surfaced in an alleged plot to bomb the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on September 2014. – with reports from Christina Mendez

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/01/26/1416977/defense-chief-saf-members-killed-top-jemaah-islamiyah-operative

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Philippines: Key Muslim Terrorist/Bomber Escapes Police Commandos, Muslim Rebel Kill 30 Police

January 26, 2015

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Members of an Islamic rebel group in the Philippines (AFP Photo)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police have recovered at least 21 bodies of the dozens commandos who were mowed down by Muslim rebel gunfire in a far-flung southern village where they moved in over the weekend to hunt down one of southeast Asia’s most-wanted terrorists, officials said Monday.

Army-backed police and villagers also helped take 11 wounded members of the national police’s elite Special Action Forces away from the battle scene in and around the village of Tukanalipao in Mamasapano township, where the government suffered its biggest single-day combat loss in many years, officials said.

Mayor Tahirudin Benzar Ampatuan told The Associated Press by telephone that village leaders saw the bodies of at least policemen in a clearing following Sunday’s fighting. Many of the dead were stripped to their underwear, with their assault firearms missing.

Philippine police encountered and clashed with MILF fighters in exchanges which lasted for 12 hours [Getty Images]

“What they described to me was gruesome,” Ampatuan said.

The commandos had sneaked into the Muslim rebel community in two groups, but apparently had “misencounter” with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim insurgent group, which signed a peace deal with the government in March and has had a relatively successful cease-fire agreement with government troops in recent years, Ampatuan said.

Under the truce, government forces are required to coordinate anti-terror assaults and other law enforcement operations with the Moro rebels to prevent accidental fighting. But the aapproximately 100 police commandos did not notify the rebels before they arrived in the dark, Moro rebel leader Mohagher Iqbal said.

“If somebody barges into your house, what will you do?” Iqbal said by telephone.

He said the 11,000-strong Moro group would file a protest over the action of the police commandos, but added the incident was not likely to undermine the peace process, a view shared by Philippine officials.

“The peace process will not be affected because we’re not dealing against the MILF here,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said, referring to the Liberation Front.

“We are up against the enemies of the state,” Gazmin said, referring to breakaway Muslim rebels, called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, who also have a presence in Tukanalipao and reportedly helped subdue the outnumbered commandos.

Gazmin said the police were trying to arrest Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian terror suspect, and a Filipino bomb-making expert, Abdul Basit Usman. U.S. and Philippine authorities have blamed them for several deadly bombings in the south.

Washington has offered up to $5 million reward for the Malaysian’s capture.

Ampatuan said the fighting ended when members of a cease-fire committee and foreign truce monitors intervened.

The peace pact, signed in March, aims to establish a more powerful and better-funded autonomous region for minority Muslims in the south and end a decades-long rebellion. The conflict has left 150,000 people dead and helped stunt development in the country’s poorest region.

Philippines: 30 police commandos killed by Muslim insurgents

January 25, 2015

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — More than 30 police commandos were killed in a clash with Muslim insurgents Sunday in the southern Philippines in the biggest single-day combat loss for Filipino forces in many years, officials said.

Dozens of commandos had entered the far-flung village of Tukanalipao at dawn looking for a top terror suspect, but had a “misencounter” with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mayor Tahirudin Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano town told The Associated Press by telephone.

Other insurgents in the area later joined in fighting the outnumbered police forces, the mayor said.

The 11,000-strong Moro group signed a peace deal with the government last year and forged a cease-fire, which has been safeguarded by a Malaysia-led team of foreign truce monitors and has halted major conflicts between the two sides for years.

Ampatuan, the Moro group and military officials said the police commandos did not coordinate their plan to enter the Muslim rebel village before sunrise, apparently resulting in the fierce fighting.

The fighting in the marshy village of cornfields and coconut plantations subsided after several hours when members of a cease-fire committee and foreign truce monitors intervened, Ampatuan said, adding he deployed a team of village leaders and guards, who saw more than 30 of the slain commandos scattered in the battle scene.

“What they described to me was gruesome,” Ampatuan said.

At least two villagers were wounded in the gunbattle. A few thousand villagers fled from their homes near the scene of the fighting, he said.

At least two Philippine security officials told The AP that the target of the police commandos was Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian terror suspect known also as Marwan, who has been blamed by U.S. and Philippine authorities for several deadly bombings in the south. Marwan, who allegedly has provided bomb-making training and funds to local al-Qaida-linked militants, is believed to have been hiding in the country’s south since 2003.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters about operations to capture Marwan, who they said may have been wounded or killed in Sunday’s fighting.

Aside from Moro rebels, hardline insurgents who broke off from the main Moro group a few years ago because they opposed peace talks with the government also inhabit Tukanalipao and outlying villages. Some of the Moro rebels and breakaway insurgents are relatives and co-exist in the same villages.

Ampatuan said his village leaders managed to extricate only five of the policemen’s bodies by nightfall because they were afraid for their safety amid sporadic gunfire and the darkness in the village, which is 2 to 3 kilometers (1.2 to 1.9 miles) from the nearest road.

It remains unclear how many police commandos entered the village, he said, adding the death toll would likely increase.

An initial police report seen by AP said at least 37 police commandos perished in the fighting while 6 insurgents were killed and 11 others wounded.

Military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said government troops were helping the police retrieve the dead from the scene of the clash. “No military units were involved the fighting,” he said.

While the tragic fighting underscored the difficulty of forging peace in the long-volatile southern region, homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, it also showed how the cease-fire and the foreign truce monitors, troops and rebels who jointly enforce it have effectively prevented occasional flareups from degenerating into a full-blown fighting that could endanger the peace deal.

The pact, which was signed in March, aims to establish a more powerful and better-funded autonomous region for minority Muslims in the south and end a decades-long rebellion. The conflict has left 150,000 people dead and helped stunt development in the country’s poorest region.

At least four smaller armed groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, have continued fighting government forces and staging attacks in the south.

Philippines: 30 cops, 5 MILF men killed in Maguindanao clash

January 25, 2015

Edwin Fernandez
Inquirer Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — At least 30 members of the Philippine National Police elite Special Action Forces who were out to arrest suspected terrorists, and five fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, were killed in a clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Sunday, after the cops entered an MILF base allegedly in violation of the ceasefire agreement, two rebel officials said on Sunday.

Von Al Haq, vice chair for military affairs of the MILF, said the PNP SAF did not properly coordinate with the MILF when they set out to serve warrants of arrest for Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, known by the military and police as “Marwan,” in Barangay Tukanalipao. (The coordination is required under the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government, which recently signed a peace agreement.)

Al Haq said the policemen ended up clashing with the MILF men and the BIFF under Commander Guiawan in Barangay (village) Tukanalipao.

“They were also after Basit Usman,” he added. Usman is a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb making expert.

“They were trapped and may have run out of bullets during a fierce firefight,” a police source said. The source claimed that “Marwan” was also killed along with several BIFF members. (This has not been confirmed by the police or the military.)

“The SAF intruded and clashed with the 105th Base Command resulting in at least 30 casualties,” Al Haq said.

The MILF suffered five casualties, he added.

“The Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities facilitated the request of the PNP to retrieve their casualties but unfortunately many were not able to survive because they were not evacuated immediately. Hopefully, all bodies will be retrieved,” Al Haq said.

Al Haq divulged that the SAF men who participated in the operation were not originally assigned in the area and were from General Santos City.

“They were all new to the area and know little about it,” Al Haq said.

He said it was possible that the PNP unit bypassed the Armed Forces of the Philippines and MILF because of the $5-million bounty for the capture of the target.

“This should be a lesson to everybody not to ignore the ceasefire mechanism and to understand more the ongoing peace process,” Al Haq said.

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, explained how MILF troops got involved in the bloody clash in Mamasapano.

“The clash was triggered by no coordination in the police operation,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

“SAF first attacked an area where there were terrorists, they also attacked our position, that’s how our troops were dragged into the encounter,” he said.

“By accident, they clashed with our troops in village of Tukanalipao,” he added.

Mayor Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano said he was awakened by a series of gun fire Sunday.

“Two civilians were confirmed wounded, we are helping to evacuate the civilians nearby because the conflict might escalate,” Ampatuan said in a phone interview.

Another report said three civilians were killed, two females and a male.

Abu Misri Mama has another version. He said the police elite forces were there to serve a warrant of arrest for Basit Usman but they instead raided the house of Ustadz Manan, a sub-commander of the MILF 105th base commander under Commander Zacaria Goma.

“When the shooting war started, we noticed the police were coming on to our position so we surrounded them and engaged them for several hours in Barangay Manggapang, Mamasapano,” Mama told the Inquirer in the vernacular.

“As of 6 p.m., we are still surrounding police in Barangay Manggagapang and anytime we will strike,” he said when interviewed by the Inquirer.

In an earlier interview after news of the conflict first broke out, Mama claimed that the firefight started after the SAF allegedly tried to search for suspected Jemaah Islamiyah bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and clashed with the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

Marwan’s capture carries a $5-million bounty for his terror attacks, which have also earned him a spot in the most wanted terror list of the FBI.

Mama added that the BIFF’s 1st Brigade intercepted the reinforcement from the military at around 9 a.m.

The BIFF recovered at least 10 rifles, Mama claimed.

“We were shocked when the SAF attacked the 105th Base Command of the MILF because there is an ongoing peace talks with the government,” Mama commented.

“The firefight has already died down but the SAF and the military are already surrounded by the MILF and the BIFF,” Mama said.

Colonel Gener del Rosario, chief of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said they have been on standby.

“We have no communication line with the SAF in the area where the SAF men were located, Del Rosario said. The police did not coordinate with us.”

Armored vehicles lined-up portions of Shariff Aguak and the roads leading to Mamasapano town.

Civilians have been fleeing for fear of a bigger war, Mayor Ampatuan said.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division public affairs unit, denied the claims of Mama, asserting that they have not yet received any reports of fire fights involving the military.

“Possibly, the group that the BIFF clashed with is the SAF,” Petinglay said.

Petinglay said the military has been conducting clearing operations in Mamasapano town where policemen were killed in a clash with BIFF and other lawless elements.

Petinglay could not say how many policemen were killed but said Army backed by armored personnel carrier were in the area to assist police in Maguindanao.

“As of now I cannot give exact number of fatalities, it was a police operation, there was no coordination with our troops on the ground,” Petinglay told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Al Haq said eight SAF and members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were captured by the BIFF.

He said the MILF troops on the ground have been helping the Army through the joint government and MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities.

“We are still verifying the casualty figure, what we are doing is we assist the police in extracting the fatalities,” Petinglay said.

Petinglay said the SAF came to Mamasapano for a “law enforcement operation against a most wanted man, a high value target, a Jemaah Islamiya member.”

Roads leading to Mamasapano from Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao were closed and reporters were barred from entering the encounter site, which is about 15 kilometers from the national highway linking Isulan in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City passing by Maguindanao.

Petinglay said elements of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade were still in the area, as of Sunday evening.

Originally posted at 6:51 PM|Sunday, January 25, 2015

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