PH suspends special forces chief over deadly clash

By Reuters

MANILA – The chief of the Philippines’ special forces police unit has been suspended over his handling of an operation at the weekend to arrest two wanted Islamic militants that left over 40 commandos dead, the interior secretary said on Tuesday.

Secretary Manuel Roxas also said he had ordered an investigation into the operation that turned into a deadly 12-hour clash with Muslim rebels. The head of the Philippine National Police said the operation had not been cleared by top police officials.

Forty-four Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were killed and 12 others wounded in the firefight in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao on Sunday. Police said eight Muslim rebels were also killed in the clash, which shattered a ceasefire that held for three years.

“We have directed the administrative relief of SAF Director Leo Napenas from his current duties pending the outcome of this board of inquiry,” Roxas, the interior and local government secretary, told a news conference.

“He has been recalled back to Manila. He was given a chance yesterday to help retrieve the bodies of his men. If there were lapses and someone is responsible for it, then he will be made accountable.”

Roxas on Monday described the incident as a “misencounter”.

Nearly 400 SAF officers were involved in the operation aimed at arresting two militants who had taken refuge with fighters of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The two militants, Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian member of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah militant group behind numerous bomb attacks in the Philippines, and Filipino Abdul Basit Usman, both carry a bounty on their heads.

Bin Hir is the country’s most wanted Islamist militant and the United States has offered a $5 million reward for him, while a $1 million reward has been posted for Usman.

Officials have said Bin Hir was likely killed in the firefight, but Usman had escaped.

The MILF, which had been waging war for more than four decades in the south of the largely Christian country, have agreed under a peace accord to disband their force and surrender weapons in exchange for an autonomous government.

Both sides said they were hopeful the violence would not scupper the peace deal.

“This is a temporary setback (in the peace process). We have to rebuild whatever was chipped off,” the government peace panel said on its Facebook page.

The fighting has killed 120,000 people and displaced 2 million.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Juan
    27 January 2015 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Totoo ba itong chismis..US Embassy forwarded letter of reward money to the Off of the President(OP), $5M for Marwan and $1Million for Usman, both are Al-Queda terrorist.OP ibinigay ang mission sa bata nilang former Chief of INP,former aide of PNoy,who were suspended for corruption. This former INP chief worked incognito, by-pass the Army and Marine Battalion who knows the terrain. 400 cops attacked the MILF group, 8 muslim were killed including allegedly Marwan, but Usman escaped.Then BIFF counter attacked killed 44 cops and 12 wounded.The cops violated the ceasefire agreement bet Aunotomous govt and the Military.If the mission should had been successful the former INP chief,aide of Pnoy might be forgiven for his corruption,how about the 44 cops who died, is he responsible? Mga suwapang kayo dahil sa reward money.

    • Generoso Magaoay
      27 January 2015 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Don Juan Kamagong, slow down with your post there… Hindi ko alam kung saan ka nanggaling sa mga sinasabi mo diyan? Pagalit-galit ka diyan na parang siyoki na puro tsismis naman ang basehan mo. Kung gusto mong magdadadak diyan, sana naman ay katotohanan ang basehan mo. Hindi naman mag-forward ang U.S. ng reward kung hindi confirmed ang mission.

  • Generoso Magaoay
    27 January 2015 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Instead of providing premiere lip service, we hope that Secretary Mar Roxas would see to it that the Philippine National Police Special Reaction Force (as well as the AFP) is/are outfitted with the proper “Training”, equipment (specially communications) and intelligence. Lets face it, Mamasapano is a MILF strong hold, you should expect the worst of the worst when you go into this places. Sure, you can fire director after director, the PNP Chief, whoever it maybe, in most cases the usual reasons are lack of training, aging equipment, under equipped, lack of intelligence of the area, over confident, lack of coordination and support, and the list goes on. Maybe some of our leaders have been watching too many movies thinking that parading our PNP-SAF there would deter terrorist activities..?
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