11 soldiers killed in govt air strikes

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THE military is considering limiting or suspending air strikes after 11 soldiers died and seven were wounded during operations to rid Marawi City of members of the Maute terror group, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday.

In a news conference in Malacañang, Lorenzana said the military wanted to prevent a repeat of the bungled air offensives that claimed the lives of government troops.

Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Delfin Lorenzana answers a question during a press conference at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. AFP Photo

Lorenzana said it was “very unfortunate” that 11 soldiers were killed in the air offensives.

The first bomb hit the target accurately, but the second bomb fell on the troops. “There must be some mistake there – either the people directing the bomb run on the ground, or the pilot on the air,” Lorenzana said.


The military had to use ordinary bombs because it did not have enough precision-guided munitions at the time.

“We still have some precision-guided munitions. If they are released [they]will really hit the target indicated, but we did not have enough,” Lorenzana said.

The Defense chief said he was giving the decision on whether to continue air strikes to the ground commanders.

“There are more troops operating on the ground and the chances of hitting our own troops are very big like what happened yesterday (Wednesday),” he said.

Lorenzana said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Eduardo Año had ordered an investigation. Results of the probe will be out in three to five days.

President Duterte has been informed of the incident.

“I know that he feels very badly and he feels sad about this incident,” the Defense chief said.

Año said he had directed the AFP Inspector General to form a board of inquiry, which will be headed by Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia.

“It was very unfortunate and no one wanted it to happen. I am deeply saddened and the whole AFP commiserate with the bereaved families with deep regret,” Año told reporters.

Año is considering deferring the use of the Italian-made SF260, the Marchetti light trainer aircraft deployed to Marawi.

“Pending the result of the investigation, we may defer the use of SF260 for the meantime but we will continue using all other available ground, air and naval assets in order to resolve this crisis [in Marawi]quickly,” he said.

‘Accidents happen’

Lorenzana said the bodies of the slain soldiers have been extracted from the area and their families have been contacted.

“Of course, it will be very sad, very painful to the soldiers, `yung mga kasamahan din nila na, ‘bakit binobomba tayo ng kasamahan natin?’ [their fellow soldiers will say, why are we being bombed by our own men?]But we will just have to explain to them that accidents happen and also to the family. We will try to assuage the sorrows of the families of those who were killed,” the Cabinet official said.

As fighting entered the 10th day, government forces continued their assault on areas being occupied by the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group.

The Philippine Marines is sending up to 400 of its men to crush 50 to 100 militants still in Marawi, a Muslim-majority city.

On May 23, a firefight between the government forces and the Maute terror group ensued as troops launched an operation to neutralize terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon.

The Maute siege of Marawi forced President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which allows warrantless arrests.

A total of 120 terrorists have been killed, the military said. Also among the dead are 25 soldiers and policemen and 19 civilians.

The AFP announced on Wednesday it had seized control of 90 percent of Marawi City.

More foreign terrorists killed

Lorenzana also said at least eight foreign terrorists have been killed in the ongoing clashes, as residents reported seeing “foreign-looking” fighters joining gunfights against state forces.

He said the military has so far identified two Malaysians, two Saudis, two Indonesians, a Yemeni, and a Chechen as among those killed in the siege.

The AFP had earlier reported that six foreigners, among them Malaysians and Indonesians, were among the terrorists slain in the Marawi operations.

“They are ISIS members, because the report that we got from the civilians and from Marawi is that they saw a lot of foreign-looking fighters,” Lorenzana said, using another name for the IS.

Foreigners fighting alongside local terror groups Maute and the Abu Sayyaf could have entered the country through the southern backdoor, he said.

“There could be more that we killed that we have not identified,” Lorenzana said.

Prayers sought

Senators on Thursday called on the public to pray for and honor all heroes who lost their lives in the ongoing operation against members of the Maute terrorist group in Marawi.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that instead of engaging in fault-finding, the AFP should be allowed to conduct its fact-finding investigation into the incident.

“This is not the time to find fault on anyone, particularly those involved in the Marawi operations,” said Lacson, a former national police chief.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, a former navyman, lamented the tragic death of the soldiers. “Regardless of the circumstances of their deaths, they are heroes. As to why this incident happened in the first place, I defer to the investigation of the AFP and hope that with it is an assurance that future mishaps like this would never happen again,” he added.

with  DEMPSEY REYES AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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2 Comments

  1. Why were they using planes to bomb them when their own men were engaged in close combat when they didn’t have precision-guided munitions.

    Lorenzana said it was “very unfortunate” that 11 soldiers were killed in the air offensives.

    I call it unfortunate that incompetent idiots are in charge of the military.

  2. dating magna-nakaw on

    Lack of training, coordination and communication between the ground troops and air support elements. I will try to elaborate how it happened so the DND Chief have a better understanding. However, lack of training, coordination and communication among the participants are the main factors that caused this tragedy.

    Any military unit going out on mission, such as this, must have been briefed and given operation orders by the highest ranking military member on the ground and all those support elements such as air support, artillery support (if there are any), logistical support (such as food, ammunition, medic personnel, and everybody involved in that mission should have been briefed. The ground commander intent should always wants his soldiers, regardless of their assigned jobs, to operate synchronously, like a well oiled machine and this falls under coordination and communication. Even the smallest detail should be planned and discussed by the leadership and that “bahala na” Pinoys reasoning will only get you negative results or higher numbers of casualty, such as the Mamansaporo Mission. Proper planning, communication, and execution should always be in any commanders mind.

    Training is also very important aspect in any soldier’s life and the training that they are getting now will increase their survivability in combat environment, or when the bullets starts flying all over the place. Prayers and miracles are little bit of help, but when a soldier is well trained, he can control his fear and can think clear while under fire. In reference to the rocket / bomb fired by air support that killed ten (10) soldiers on the ground, it was a very costly mistake. Normally, when soldiers on the ground are pinned down or under fire, they normally call for air support over their radios at designated frequency, given out during operation orders briefing. The soldiers will then call the helicopter gunship for fire support giving the pilot / gunner their location on the ground using military maps. It should be at least eight (8) to ten(10) digits coordinate in degrees, or if they can pinpoint their ground location in mills, it will be much better because the pilot of their air support can plot his targets in mills. (360 degrees = 6400 mills). Based on the incident report, the bomb that was dropped by the helicopter gunship was the precise location of those ten (10) soldiers that was killed. The soldiers on the ground probably gave their present location, but the pilot / gunner programmed it as a target. The target acquisition and designation system on board of that gunship is very accurate, maybe +/- 10 feet, but still within the killing radius of the bomb.

    emdelacruz.2016@hotmail.com.