Philippines: MILF claims wanted militant killed by aide

Report by former Muslim rebel group contradicts account that special forces killed bomb expert in raid that left 44 police commandos dead

Philippines: MILF claims wanted militant killed by aide

World Bulletin / News Desk

Members of the Philippines’ one-time largest rebel group, which was implicated in a raid that left 44 police commandos dead, have questioned the official account of how a most wanted militant was killed in the incident.

According to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) investigation into the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident, Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir -- alias “Marwan” -- was shot in the back of the head, probably while lying face-down on the floor.

The findings of the report, which was submitted to the government in March but never made public, contradict the Special Armed Forces (SAF) account that Marwan was killed after firing on commandos who entered his hut in southern Mamasapano province while he was sleeping.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Sunday that a source from the MILF said Marwan had already been dead when the SAF arrived in his hut in Pembalkan village.

“It was really his [Marwan’s] security [aide] who killed him,” the source, who wished to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the matter, said in an interview Saturday. “The scenario we saw was the attack [by the SAF] was just a drama.”

Meanwhile, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, has responded to recent comments by President Benigno Aquino III on an ongoing investigation into an “alternative truth” to the raid by saying that there was “no alternative truth.”

“If you have read the report, the truth is there and for us that is the truth, not the alternative truth,” Iqbal told the Inquirer. “I don’t want to sound political, but the report speaks for itself.”

Iqbal also said in the interview that Marwan could not have resisted, but declined to provide details beyond those in the MILF report.

Aquino had admitted at an Inquirer forum Tuesday that a photograph appearing to show Marwan’s body on the hut floor with a pool of blood under his head and a shot to the chest had “posed many questions.”

“That is what we want to resolve,” he had said, referring to a possible “alternate truth.”

He added the though an investigation was ongoing, it was faced with the difficulty of finding witnesses.

According to the MILF’s investigators, the bullet holes on the hut’s wall were located around 46 centimeters above the floor, suggesting that Marwan should have been shot in his lower body if he were standing or not shot at all if he were lying down.

 “In all likelihood, the fatal shot must have been fired at close range and while Marwan was lying on the floor,” the report said. “Neither is there indication of an intense firefight in or around the hut.”

The hut, made only of indigenous materials, was burned down in February by unknown gunmen, just hours after members of the government’s Board of Inquiry inspected the scenes of the deadly encounter.

The Inquirer also quoted the unnamed MILF source as saying that the group’s investigation found that the gun battle had broken out between the SAF’s 84th Seaborne unit and a group of Marwan’s Filipino aide, Basit Usman, whose hut was located only 119 meters away.

The newspaper also cited other sources quoting unconfirmed reports as saying that one of Marwan’s aides escaped the firefight while another was killed.

Usman escaped the raid, only to be killed in a firefight with the MILF in May.

Marwan’s alleged death at the hands of an aide would cast doubt on why a back-up force, the 55th Special Action Company that suffered the most casualties, had been in Tukanalipao village, three kilometers from Pembalkan, according to the Inquirer.

An unnamed military officer told the Inquirer that probes into Marwan’s death would reveal how the operation had been “handled, controlled and mismanaged in the end.”

 “They lied to the President, to the people and to the families of the 44 SAF officers who died in the operation,” the officer was quoted as saying. “It is now difficult to find out what really happened, because there is no one to blame for the deaths of the SAF 44 but their commanders who deployed them for a poorly planned mission.”

A report by then SAF commander Getulio Napenas, who was relieved of command after the incident, had described the raid – in which commandos ran into members of the MILF and splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters -- as a success as it led to Marwan’s death.

In addition to the police commandos, 17 MILF members and five civilians were also killed in the encounter.

The involvement of the MILF had threatened to derail the peace process in the country's Muslim south, and resulted in Congress halting the passage of a bill that aims to seal peace in the region.

Last Mod: 13 Eylül 2015, 16:00
Add Comment