Tag Archive: marines

Army and Marines artillery personnel are undergoing training in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, to enhance skills in firing cannons amid controversies in providing fire support to ground troops, particularly in Mindanao.

The training for “fire direction center” (FDC) specialists was opened recently at the Artillery Training School and will run for four weeks, Army Artillery Regiment spokesperson Major Rosa Ma. Cristina Manuel said.

Ten personnel from Field Artillery Battalions based in different parts of the country and six from the Marines assigned in Sultan Kudarat are taking part, Manuel said in an emailed statement.

They were sent by their respective unit commanders to “further enhance” their competencies as FDC specialists, she said.

The retraining came in the wake of the January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 members of the National Police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) were killed.

That clash became an issue for the military after it was learned that artillery units under the Army’s 6th Infantry Division failed to provide immediate fire support to SAF members who were pinned down by Muslim rebels.

The retraining also comes almost a year after six members of the Armed Forces’ elite Joint Special Operations Group hunting down Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed in Patikul, Sulu, on June 19, 2014 due to “friendly fire” from the Marines’ artillery units.

Last January 27, some of the Marines who served in Sulu were sent back to their mother unit which covers, among others, Sultan Kudarat.

The debacle in Mamasapano is currently being discussed at the Senate, where military officials claimed that the SAF did not provide information on the beleaguered police commandos’ location so artillery units did not fire immediately.

Military officials also said the artillery units only fired white phosporous, not explosive ammunition, to determine the SAF members’ location.

The retraining aims to “review and equip more” the FDC specialists so they can “deliver the needed artillery fire support timely and accurately,” Manuel said.

During the retraining, participants will have a live-fire exercise to test their speed and accuracy in computing required data, she said.

“The survival of our endangered troops lies in our hands. However, any inaccurate, lacking or error in the data, as members of fire direction center, it is your responsibility to recommend to your battery commander not to deliver the requested fire for security reasons unless sooner corrected,” training director Lieutenant Maria Theresa Babiera said at the opening ceremony. (John Roson)

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Security forces in Sulu beefed up security measures as more Abu Sayyaf “casualties” are being reported after Friday’s clash in Patikul.

As of Saturday, the military received reports of 15 Abu Sayyaf “casualties” — nine of whom are believed to have been killed and six others seriously wounded — from Friday’s clash in Brgy. Buhanginan, a military official based in Sulu said.

Fellow bandits are reportedly trying to bring the nine towards Panglima Estino while six are monitored to be on their way to Jolo, said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

“‘Yung nine ang believed na fatal nila kasi ‘yun ang dinala papunta sa origin nitong grupo. Looban na ‘yun, wala silang makukuhang medical assistance doon, baka iuuwi na lang ang mga ito sa kamag-anak. ‘Yung mga dinala sa Jolo, ‘yun siguro ang mga ipapagamot nila,” the source said.

Members of the Marines, Army Special Forces, and the Light Armored Cavalry Troops have fanned out to Patikul and Talipao to intercept the casualties, while police were also asked to conduct checkpoints.

This is while elements of the Army’s 32nd and 35th Infantry Battalions, along with members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, are conducting pursuit operations, the source said.

On Friday, members of the 35th IB clashed with about 100 Abu Sayyaf members led by Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, Hairullah Asbang, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, and Amlon Abtahi, according to a report reaching Camp Aguinaldo.

Soldiers fired 105-millimeter Howitzer cannons at the bandits’ position while Air Force helicopter gunships were also used to support the ground troops, according to the report.

Thirteen soldiers were hurt in the clash, which lasted for almost two hours.

All 13 were flown on helicopters to the military camp in Jolo for treatment. One of them was later flown to Zamboanga City because of serious injuries, the source said.

The fighting in Brgy. Buhanginan occurred just a day after two Abu Sayyaf members were killed and three more were wounded in a clash with the 32nd IB in Brgy. Taglibi, also in Patikul, on Thursday.

A nephew of Sahiron was among those who died in that clash, which also resulted in the recovery of several high-powered firearms, the source said.

Sahiron’s group “consolidated” with those of Abu Sayyaf sub-commanders following his nephew’s death, but they splintered again after Friday’s clash, the source added. (John Roson)

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Two of the Abu Sayyaf’s remaining kidnap victims, both Europeans, appeared safe despite a bloody clash between government troops and the bandit group in Talipao, Sulu, on Friday, the military commander in the province said Saturday.

Colonel Allan Arrojado, commander of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Group Sulu, made the remark after saying that two kidnap victims – Ewold Horn of The Netherlands and Lorenzo Vinciguerra of Switzerland – were seen among Abu Sayyaf members Saturday.

Horn and Vinciguerra were spotted with heavily-armed bandits in Sitio Kan Amat, Brgy. Bagsak, Patikul, around 12 noon, Arrojado said.

The bandits, numbering about 100, were led by Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, he said.

“Accordingly, some of them (Abu Sayyaf) are recuperating due to bullet wounds suffered during their firefight against AFP troops on Friday,” Arrojado said, citing field intelligence reports.

“Walang nasaktan sa mga kidnap victims,” he said, when asked if Horn and Vinciguerra had also been hurt during the fighting.

Horn and Vinciguerra, kidnapped while bird-watching in Tawi-Tawi on February 1, 2012, are among the at least nine people still held by the Abu Sayyaf.

Major Edilberto Aramponi, JTG Sulu’s civil-military operations officer, said troops did not see any of the kidnap victims during Friday’s clashes in Brgy. Bud Bunga, Talipao.

“Medyo mahirap makita dahil tinatago silang mabuti ng Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

15 dead, 58 wounded

Friday’s clash, the first “major encounter” since a renewed hunt for the Abu Sayyaf was launched in October, left 15 people dead and at least 58 others wounded.

Five soldiers, all ranked private first class, were killed. Twenty-eight others, including a young officer ranked 1st lieutenant, were hurt. All of them belong to the Army’s elite Scout Rangers.

Three of the injured are in serious condition and have been airlifted to Zamboanga City, while the rest are being treated at the station hospital in Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista, Jolo, Aramponi said.

Arrojado said 10 members of the Abu Sayyaf, including sub-commander Hairullah Asbang and Sahiron’s brother-in-law Beting Jakka, were also killed while more than 30 bandits were injured.

Asbang reportedly died of bullet wounds inflicted by an MD-520 attack helicopter that was sent to support ground troops, he said.

“So far, may seven nang identified out of the 10 killed sa Abu Sayyaf. Mayroon na kaming 18 names ng more than 30 wounded sa kanila, marami pang unidentified,” Arrojado said.

Aramponi admitted that the slain Abu Sayyaf members were not recovered, though their deaths were confirmed thru intelligence operatives.

He also said there has been no evacuation of civilians because the clashes occurred far from populated areas.

Members of the Scout Rangers, Marines, and the Army’s 32nd and 35th Infantry Battalions are still in the jungles to pursue the Abu Sayyaf, Aramponi said.

More than 2,500 soldiers are presently in Sulu to run after Abu Sayyaf members, following an order by President Benigno Aquino to stop the al Qaeda-linked group’s kidnapping activities “once and for all.”

The “law enforcement operation” was launched after the bandits released two other Europeans captives – Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen – on October 17, following an alleged payment of ransom. (John Roson)

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14 killed in Sulu clashes – military

Five soldiers were killed and 26 others were wounded when government troops clashed with a large band of Abu Sayyaf members in Talipao, Sulu, Friday afternoon, military officials said.

Nine Abu Sayyaf members were also killed while more than 30 other bandits were wounded, Colonel Alan Arrojado, commander of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Group Sulu, said in a statement.

Soldiers encountered about 300 bandits led by Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron in a series of clashes that lasted for five hours, he said.

Major Edilberto Aramponi, JTG Sulu’s civil-military operations officer, said the first clash in Brgy. Bud Bunga started 1:50 p.m. and another erupted 4:30 p.m.

Elements of the elite Army Scout Rangers’ 3rd Battalion, numbering about 150, met the Abu Sayyaf twice and the bandits used grenade launchers, Aramponi said by phone.

“Mayroon ding ibang units na kasali doon sa operation, nandoon din ‘yung 35th Infantry Battalion at saka Marines, pero ‘yung Rangers ang nakahagip,” he said.

The slain soldiers, all enlisted personnel, belong to that unit, Aramponi said.

It was not immediately known if the wounded soldiers include officers.

Arrojado said an MD520 attack helicopter was deployed to support ground troops during the fighting.

Hairullah Asbang, an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, reportedly died of bullet wounds inflicted by the attacking aircraft, he said.

Those reported killed on the Abu Sayyaf side also include Hamer Absara and Beting Jakka, Sahiron’s brother-in-law, Arrojado said.

Aramponi said troops have yet to recover any of the slain bandits, but were able to confirm their deaths thru intelligence operatives.

Arrojado said pursuit operations against the bandits will go on through the night.

“More troops were sent to block the escape routes of the bandits. We will continuously pursue them in their jungle hideouts,” he said.

More than 2,500 soldiers are presently in Sulu to run after Abu Sayyaf members, following an order by President Benigno Aquino to stop the al Qaeda-linked group’s kidnapping activities “once and for all.”

The “law enforcement operation” against the Abu Sayyaf was launched after the bandits released German captives Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen on October 17. (John Roson)

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Security forces will continue the hunt for Abu Sayyaf members and will not pull out troops in Sulu even after the bandit group freed two German captives, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

“No pullout. We’re all out to conduct law enforcement operations,” Catapang said in a text message late Friday.

The military chief made the remark when asked what will happen to operations mounted against the Abu Sayyaf after the bandits freed Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen.

More than 2,000 soldiers from five Marine battalions, two Army infantry battalions, a company of Army Special Forces, and military K-9 units are in Sulu, making it the province with the biggest concentration of military forces.

The count does not include Navy sailors on vessels, Air Force pilots manning combat helicopters, and “force multipliers” comprised of armed civilian volunteers.

The Abu Sayyaf, according to the military, has an estimated armed strength of about 400 and an undetermined number of supporters.

Catapang, in a visit to Sulu last Sunday, said the bandit group was still holding some 15 hostages, of whom nine are foreigners including Okonek and Dielen.

Okonek, who the Abu Sayyaf had threatened to behead Friday afternoon, was freed along with Dielen in Patikul town 8:50 p.m. the same day, Catapang said.

The Germans, abducted by Abu Sayyaf men in waters between Palawan and Borneo on April 25, were released by their captors in Brgy. Kaday Mapallam, Chief Supt. Noel delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, said in a separate text message.

Okonek and Dielen were later brought to the 2nd Marine Brigade headquarters in Camp Teodulfo Bautista, Brgy. Busbus, Jolo, for medical attention, Delos Reyes said.

Military and police officials confirmed the release about an hour after Abu Rami, spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf, announced it in an interview by a radio station in Zamboanga City.

“Walang labis, walang kulang,” Abu Rami said when asked if ransom was paid. The Abu Sayyaf had demanded P250 million in exchange for the Germans.

Following their release, Okonek and Dielen were transported to Zamboanga City on a Navy vessel. 

Okonek, in his 70s, appeared thin, was limping, and had a dextrose on during his stay at the Navy office in Majini Pier, Zamboanga, video clips provided by the AFP Western Mindanao Command showed.

Okonek and Dielen were flown to Manila hours later, and arrived at the Villamor Air Base around 6:45 a.m. Saturday, AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said.

“The Embassy of Germany made arrangements for this and has taken custody of them,” Tutaan said.

The military previously said that the German government had been negotiating for Okonek and Dielen’s release.

Tutaan and other military officials, however, could not confirm whether money had indeed exchanged hands.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs chief, insisted that “military pressure” forced the Abu Sayyaf to free the Germans.

“Kung may nagbayad diyan, hindi namin alam, kung German ba ‘yan o ano, basta sa side namin hindi kami nakipag-negotiate sa kanila, nag-deploy kami ng tropa,” he told reporters.

Cabunoc confirmed an earlier radio report that soldiers had surrounded the bandits holding Okonek.

“As early as kahapon (Friday), madaling-araw pa, pinalibutan namin… may special operations, may mga snipers tayo dun pero may utos din kasi na i-ensure na hindi mabaril ‘yung hostage,” he said.

Cabunoc said pursuit operations are now ongoing to capture Abu Sayyaf members and recover their remaining captives.

“We are pursuing them, full scale ang deployment dahil ang gusto ni chief of staff ay ipakita din naman ng Armed Forces na hindi lang naman Germans ang dahilan at nagdeploy tayo, we are thinking about the 10 other hostages as well,” he said. (John Roson)

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Armed members of the Abu Sayyaf group abducted a school teacher in Patikul, Sulu, Wednesday afternoon, the military said.

The victim was identified as Alrashid Jahang, a teacher at the Taglibi Elementary School, Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, civil-military operations officer of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said.

The abduction occurred around 4 p.m. in Sitio Baunoh, Brgy. Liang, Lacuesta said in a text message.

Jahang was riding a motorcycle from Brgy. Taglibi to Jolo when about 10 armed men, led by Aljini Mundoc alias Ninok Sapari, flagged him down and forcibly took him towards the southeast, Lacuesta said.

Marine troopers and police have been sent to recover the victim, he said.

Mundoc’s group had previously been blamed for the abduction of Filipino-Algerian sisters Nadjoua and Linda Abdel Bansil, also in Sitio Baunoh, Brgy. Liang, on June 22, 2013.

The sisters, who were filming a documentary on coffee farmers when they were abducted, were released by their captors last February 20.

Jahang’s abduction came just two days after two young cousins, their nanny, and driver were abducted in Jolo.

The four were said to have been taken by their still unidentified captors to Patikul. (John Roson)

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Armed men abducted two children, their nanny, and driver while on the way to school in Jolo, Sulu, early Monday, the military said.

The victims were identified as Mohammad Zaher Naim, 10; Princess Raiza Karanain, 8; housemaid Almalyn Abuhail, 18; and driver Saddam Amlih, all residents of Brgy. Alat, Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, civil-military operations officer of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said.

Naim and Karanain are cousins and the former’s mother is a doctor, Lacuesta said in a text message.

The abduction occurred around 7 a.m. along Scott Road in downtown Jolo.

Amlih and Abuhail were taking the children to school when five men flagged down their vehicle and forced them into a Tamaraw-type jeepney, he said.

The abductors’ vehicle was then seen heading towards the direction of Brgy. Anuling, Patikul, Lacuesta said.

Members of the Marines and local police were still tracking down the abductors and their victims as of this writing. (John Roson)

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(Updated 11 p.m.) Two Marine troopers were killed while two children were injured after being shot at a cathderal in Jolo, Sulu, Thursday, authorities said.

Cpl. Danilo Agustin and Pfc. Gilmor Panitan, both of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 9 (MBLT-9), died of multiple bullet wounds, Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said.

Daniela Rose Iting, 6, and Ellyeza Faith Salo, 5, suffered bullet wounds to the right arm and right heel, respectively, Cenabre said.

The shooting occurred around 11:45 a.m. at the Mt. Carmel Cathedral.

Armed men fired upon soldiers securing the cathedral then hastily left, Cenabre said.

Iting and Salo, who happened to be at the church, were hit by stray bullets, he said.

Initial investigation by the Jolo Police indicated a slightly different story.

A man went inside the cathedral, where Agustin and Panitan took post, then forcibly grabbed the M16 rifle of one of the soldiers, Senior Insp. Kris Conrad Gutierrez, Sulu provincial police spokesman, said.

The man immediately fired upon one soldier and went after the other – who ran towards the kitchen – and shot him, Gutierrez said, citing information from the Jolo Police.

Iting, Salo and a cook aged 30 were caught in the volley of fire, he said.

Cenabre said Agustin and Panitan were rushed to the Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Brgy. Busbus, but were both declared dead by military doctors.

The injured children were taken to the Sulu Provincial Hospital and are now in stable condition, he said.

Police and members of the MBLT-9 have been deployed to Brgy. San Raymundo to locate the assailant. (John Roson)

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Twenty-two people have been killed while almost 30,000 fled their homes due to clashes between state forces and Moro gunmen in Zamboanga City, authorities said Friday, as fighting raged for the fifth day.

The number of evacuees rose to 5,667 families or 29,557 persons after the city government implemented a forced evacuation in some areas, Adriano Fuego, Office of Civil Defense-9 director, said.

The city government, in a resolution, ordered evacuations in Brgys. Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon, Mampang, and “other affected barangays” on Thursday.

Fighting has already affected seven areas – Brgys. Zone 4 Poblacion, Mampang, Talon-talon, Kasanyangan, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki, and Sta. Barbara – as of Friday afternoon, Fuego said by phone.

“The evacuees from these areas are staying in 17 evacuation centers… (kailangan nila ng) mga gamot and hygienic materials but we already requested for that. Hindi problema ang food dahil maraming galing sa city government. Ang problema lang talaga ay ‘yung influx ng evacuees,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said the number of fatalities has already reached 22 while that of the injured stood at 52.

The fatalities comprise two soldiers, three policemen, two civilians, and 15 followers of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, Zagala, who is in the city, said in a text message to reporters in Manila.

Injured were 28 soldiers, six policemen, and 18 civilians, he said.

Nineteen MNLF members are now in state custody after being arrested, injured in clashes, or surrendering, Zagala said.

The number of casualties does not yet include people injured in clashes that happened in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mariki, and Rio Hondo in the afternoon, just hours after President Benigno Aquino III visited the city.

Aquino, in a televised press conference, said he will use the state’s “full force” to protect civilians from more attacks by the gunmen.

Fires hit homes and establishments in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mariki, and Rio Hondo as MNLF troops fired mortar rounds and grenade launchers against advancing government troops, television footages showed.

Soldiers, backed by tanks, marched and took fighting positions on the streets.

Eleven Philippine Red Cross staff and volunteers were injured when a mortar round exploded in the afternoon, the organization said in its Twitter account.

Before the President arrived, MNLF members on 6 a.m. freed Fr. Michael Ufana, a Catholic priest who is among the more than 100 hostages held by rebels, police confirmed.

Ustadz Habier Malik, an MNLF commander, in a radio interview, said they freed Ufana to help facilitate negotiations with the government. (John Roson)

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Suspected Abu Sayyaf members abducted two Filipino-Algerians working for a royalty, in Patikul, Sulu, Saturday morning, a military official said.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, identified the victims as siblings Linda Abdel Basit and Nadova Abdel Basit.

The two work as public relations officers for the group Tausug Citizen, which is led by Sultan Bantilan Muhammad Muizzuddin and based in Brgy. Kajatian, Indanan, Cenabre said in a text message.

The abduction occurred around 9:30 a.m. in Sitio Baunuh, Brgy. Liang.

Information gathered from the area indicated that Linda and Nadova were riding a passenger jeepney from Jolo to Patikul, when eight armed men flagged down the vehicle and took the sisters, Cenabre said.

The abductors, believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf’s so-called “urban terrorist group,” were led by a certain Ninok Sappari, according to the military official.

Pursuit operations have been launched to track down the abductors and victims, he said. (John Roson)

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