Death toll of commandos killed in clash with Muslim rebels rises to 49 in Philippine - UPDATED

The Philippines said the clash between security forces and Muslim rebels in which dozens of people were killed was a mistake and both sides said they were hopeful about peace.

Death toll of commandos killed in clash with Muslim rebels rises to 49 in Philippine - UPDATED

World Bulletin / News Desk

The death toll in Sunday's clash between government and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF) is now at 49, a local police official said.

Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla, Philippine National Police officer-in-charge for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said he still has no information how many among the 49 fatalities were policemen and MILF members.

Armilla said at least 11 were wounded.

He could also not confirm whether a civilian was killed in Sunday's bloodshed.

Earlier reports put the death toll among members of the PNP Special Action Force and MILF at 30 and 4, respectively.

The clash between the MILF members and the elite cops occurred as the latter were supposed to arrest Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias ''Marwan'' and Basit Usman, a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-making expert, in Tukanalipao village.

The MILF, however, said the bloody clash erupted due to the lack of coordination between the police and the proper governing bodies.

Speaking to dzMM, Iqbal said the police personnel should have first coordinated with the Ceasefire Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) before conducting their operation in the MILF-controlled area.

According to Armilla, the PNP SAF informed the ARMM Police about the operation at around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, but he noted that the gun battle erupted at around 3 a.m. that day.

Police have already retrieved 29 of the bodies of the slain policemen.

Bangsamoro Basic Law

Sunday's clash threatens to stall the progress in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a product of the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

Senator Ferdinand ''Bongbong'' Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, earlier ordered the temporary suspension of all discussions and hearings related to the passage of the law following the Sunday clash.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the defense committee at the lower house, has also asked the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro to suspend deliberations on the proposed law pending the submission of reports on the latest skirmishes in Mindanao.

Top officials from both the government and the MILF said the deadly clashes should not delay proceedings for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“It is not logical for anybody to delay the process of making the BBL into law because it will be disadvantageous to all parties concerned,” MILF vice chairman for political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar told reporters.

In a separate press release, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the Philippines’ resolve to push for the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity is further strengthened.

“This incident and other recent acts of violence by other armed groups manifest the diverse security challenges that confound the peace process. But our resolve to see through the process of legislating the Bangsamoro Basic Law and implementing the different Normalization programs, including the security components, is only further strengthened. With better cooperation we will be able to prevent these kinds of incidents,” she said. 

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest rebel group in the Philippine south, accepted an autonomy offer in March 2014 from the government, ending 45 years of conflict in which 120,000 people were killed and 2 million displaced.

Deadly clash is a mistake

The Philippines said on Monday a clash between security forces and Muslim rebels in which dozens of people were killed was a mistake and both sides said they were hopeful the violence would not scupper a peace deal the rebels are negotiating.

Efforts to bring peace to the main southern island of Mindanao have raised hopes for the development of a long-neglected region rich in mineral resources.

Mohagher Iqbal, head of the rebel peace panel, said the police failed to coordinate their operations with the ceasefire committee.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said the police were hunting two "high-value" militants but police commandos ran into a group of rebels who thought the police were mounting an attack.

"This was a misencounter," Roxas told a news conference in Cotabato City in the south of the country.

"We expect that naturally there will be impact but we are hopeful and confident this will not derail the peace talks."

Last Mod: 26 Ocak 2015, 13:30
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