Abu Sayyaf, not MILF, beheaded Marines, probers say

The joint fact-finding team of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ceasefire coordinating teams have identified four of the suspects and have recommended the formation of a joint task force to hunt them.

"We have eyewitnesses who testified seeing the suspects entering the area when the MILF withdrew its forces," Von Al Haq, chief of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, said.

Aside from identifying the suspects, the team also found that the Philippine Marines failed to coordinate with the CCCH when they entered barangay Guinanta where the MILF had three camps. (See separate story.)

But the investigation failed to establish who killed the 67-year-old imam, Al Kanul, the lone civilian casualty in the July 10 incident, a source in the investigating team said.

Al Haq, however, clarified that the witnesses they interviewed said they saw only the beheading of four Marines.

In Manila, Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar identified four of the suspects in his privilege speech this morning.

Akbar identified the four as Umair Indama, Nurhasan Jamiri, Buhari Jamiri and Suaib Kalibon. He said the four suspects are also responsible for several kidnappings, including that of Grace Gonzales, daughter of the school president of Western Mindanao State University, in 2006.

A source close to the investigation told MindaNews that the team was able to know the identities of the suspects after two witnesses came forward and executed their affidavits in Zamboanga City.

"One is an MILF member who went back to the scene of the fighting after they had withdrawn from the area to look for something he left behind," the source said.

The source said the witness saw the four suspects with 10 other armed men going near to the fallen Marines near the M35 6×6 truck.

"The witness saw the four suspects behead and mutilate the Marines. He even admonished them that beheadings are not allowed in warfare," Al Haq said.

Al Haq said Lantawan town Mayor Tahira Ismael and Al-Barkah town Mayor Karam Jakilan brought the two witnesses to the fact-finding team in Zamboanga City last Monday.

"They were the missing link to the investigation, " he said.

Al Haq said the investigation, however, was not able to establish the identities of the killers of Al Kanul, whose body was found inside an area where the Marines had established defensive positions in barangay Guinanta.

"The imam's wrists were hogtied but there was no witness who saw the killing," he said.

The fact-finding investigation had interviewed a total of 27 eyewitness during their week-long investigation in Basilan.

Last Wednesday, the investigation ended and copies of the report were given to government and MILF chief peace negotiators Rodolfo Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)

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