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30 police are killed in Philippines during raid to capture top terrorist



30 police are killed in Philippines during raid to capture top terrorist

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 January, 2015, 6:35am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 January, 2015, 6:35am

Associated Press in Manila


MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (left) at a ceremony with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. The MILF group signed a peace deal with the Philippine government last year. Photo: AP

More than 30 police commandos were killed in a clash with Muslim insurgents yesterday in the southern Philippines in the biggest single-day combat loss for Philippine forces in many years, officials said.

The commandos had entered the remote village of Tukanalipao at dawn looking for a top terror suspect, but had a "misencounter" with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other insurgents, Mayor Tahirudin Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano town said.

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

The MILF group signed a peace deal with the government last year.

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 corn and coconut plantations subsided after several hours when members of a ceasefire committee and foreign truce monitors intervened, Ampatuan said.

He said 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 Philippine security officials said the target of the police commandos was Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian terror suspect known also as Marwan, who has been blamed by US and Philippine authorities for several deadly bombings.

Marwan is believed to have been hiding in the country's south since 2003.

The two officials said Marwan might have been wounded or killed in yesterday's fighting.

The villagers managed to extricate only five of the policemen's bodies by nightfall because they were afraid of their safety amid sporadic gunfire and the darkness in the village, which was 2 to 3 kilometres from the nearest main road, Ampatuan said.

The death toll could reach 50 people, most of them from the police, army sources said.

Colonel Restituto Padilla said no army unit was involved but they were helping recover police casualties in the area. Nine had been retrieved.

The last time the MILF clashed with security force was in November 2011 when troops raided a supposed Islamist militants lair. The peace talks with MILF nearly collapsed then.



Alfrescian (Inf)

49 police commandos killed after raid on southern Philippine rebel camp

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 January, 2015, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 January, 2015, 4:21pm

Agence France-Presse in Manila


Philippine police commandoes unload body bags containing the remains of their comrades killed in a clash with Muslim rebels. Photo: 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.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal could not immediately say if there were casualties on the rebel side.

Iqbal said the police commandos swooped down on the remote town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao province controlled by the rebels around 3am on Sunday.

They were seeking to arrest Jemaah Islamiyah member Marwan, who has a US$5 million bounty for his capture and who authorities referred to by only one name, along with Basit Usman, commander of the BIFF rebel faction that is not part of peace talks.

The operation was not coordinated with the MILF, or Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as required under the ceasefire, Iqbal said.

In a statement, Philippine National Police chief Leonardo Espina said the police commandos were chasing a “high-value target” believed to be behind recent bomb attacks in the south. He did not elabourate.

“This is going to be a big problem,” Iqbal said, when asked how the fighting would affect the peace process.

Ceasefire monitors are investigating the incident, he said.

While he recognised that the incident was a setback, Iqbal said he hoped peace timetables would not be impacted.

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

Espina and the interior government secretary Manuel Roxas flew to Maguindanao today to check on the situation.

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 the minority Muslims self-rule in several southern provinces.

A peace treaty was signed in March last year and rebels were scheduled to start the long and painful disarming process at the start of this year.

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

The firefight in Mamasapano, about 900 kilometres south of Manila, was only the second since two soldiers and 18 Muslim gunmen were killed in a clash on the southern island of Basilan in April last year.

Such incidents once broke out with much greater frequency prior to the signing of the treaty, during a rebellion that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

After the April fighting, the government accused the MILF of helping Islamic extremists under attack from security forces. The group acknowledged four of its members were killed.

Since the peace deal was struck, government forces have been going after the BIFF, a group of several hundred Muslim gunmen who last year pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.