see also AFP demoralized, lag in peace process feared

The Armed Forces has protested the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) participation in the encounter that left 19 soldiers dead and 12 others wounded in Al Barkah, Basilan.

Additional soldiers have also been sent to pursue those who were involved in the attack, AFP public affairs chief Col. Arnulfo Burgos said.

The military identified those killed in the clash as 1lts. Colt Alsiyao, Frank Junder Caminos, Vladimir Maninang, 2lt. Jose Delfine Khe, Pfcs. Michael Miguel, Garry Coronia, Dennis Bulan, Jordan Magno, Jonis Rigor, Ervin Dequito, Emerson Tugas, and Jordan Olivar.

Among the injured were 1lt. Joy Soliguen, Fidel Susarno, Pfcs. Jeff Sherwin Domingo, Benjamin Marquez, Arnel Balili, Mario Flora, Joseph Muyco, Jestoni Leyso, Reynante Malina, Russel Alsaga, and Pvt. Leo Moniol.

6 soldiers ‘murdered’

Eight soldiers were initially declared as missing, but Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade said six of these were found dead yesterday (Wednesday) noon in Brgy. Bato-Bato after being abducted by rebels.

“Buhay pa sila (six soldiers) kagabi, na-capture, pinatay, so they (enemy) actually murdered the six,” Parlade said in a phone interview.

“May mga nakakita na buhay sila nung kinuha kagabi, naubusan lang siguro ng bala… ‘yung hinihiling namin kagabi sa (ceasefire) committee na sana maibalik na buhay, eh ‘yun, pinatay na ng kalaban at ibinaba dun sa Bato-Bato,” Parlade said.

Parlade said he has recieved report of another soldier now in the care of the Scout Rangers, leaving only one more missing as of Wednesday afternoon.

DND shocked

“It’s very unfortunate, we were shocked… They (soldiers) were just in a routine performance of duty,” Department of National Defense spokesman Atty. Zosimo Jesus Paredes said, when sought for comment on the clash.

“They (military) can file a protest, according to the ceasefire agreement,” he added.

In a press briefing, Burgos said the protest was filed to the Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) shortly after the clash.

This was because the rebels “reinforced” the armed men that soldiers were pursuing 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in Sitio Baisung, Brgy. Cambug, he said.

Members of the 13th and 19th Special Forces Companies were pursuing the group of Dan Laksaw Asnawi and Nurhassan Jamiri when the number of enemies suddenly “swelled up to 400,” outnumbering the troops 4 to 1, Colonel Carlito Galvez, operations chief of the AFP J3 (Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations) Office, said in the same briefing.

There was no reason for the MILF to join because the the fighting happened 4 kilometers from the rebels’ “area of temporary settlement” in Brgy. Ginanta, Burgos stressed.

The MILF, in its official website, said the Army troopers attacked the group of Asnawi, a commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces’ 114th Base Command, in violation of the ceasefire.

‘Limited pursuit’

Meanwhile, Burgos said additional troops from the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion and other Army units have been sent to the area to pursue those who were involved in the clash and look for the missing.

Air assets like the UH1H and MG520 helicopters were again dispatched to help the search, he said.

“Ang paramount concern natin is to rescue the missing in action personnel and clearing operations,” Burgos said.

He, however, admitted that the pursuit will be “limited” as the military is not allowed to enter the MILF territory and risk another clash.

“We have to exercise restraint and we have to observe also ‘yung ‘area of temporary stay,’ as stipulated in the ceasefire agreement,” Burgos said.

“We are still seeking the go signal of the AHJAG and CCCH so that we can enter the MILF’s area of temporary stay,” Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said.

Asnawi, according to police records, is a member of the MILF 114th Base Command and was among those charged for the killing of 14 Marines, of which 10 were beheaded, in Al Barka in 2007.

He and at least 30 inmates were “rescued” from the Basilan Provincial Jail in December 13, 2009, when a band of heavily-armed men stormed the facility.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz, meanwhile, said he has ordered the relief of 4SFB commander Lt. Col. Leo Pena. (John Roson)

(see also) AFP demoralized, lag in peace process feared

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