‘Soldiers possibly went after wrong targets in Al Barka’

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/24 October) — Contrary to military pronouncements, the Army Special Forces unit that was sent to Al Barka, Basilan on October 18 and suffered 19 casualties may have run after the wrong targets, not the Abu Sayyaf members who were tagged in the beheading of 12 Marines killed in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on July 10 2007.

Col. Antonio Parlade Jr., who was recently axed as Army spokesperson, earlier said that the rebels “engaged by the soldiers were headed by MILF leader Haji Laksaw Dan Asnawi alias ‘Haji Dan Asnawi’ and ASG commander Nurhassan Jamiri.”

But an Independent Joint Fact-Finding Committee (IJFFC) organized by Malacanang on July 23, 2007 to investigate the beheading on July 12, 2003 said: “The dastardly and barbaric acts of beheading and mutilating the dead Marines were done by the Abu Sayyaf Group of Suaib Kalibon, Nurhasan Jamiri, Umair Indama and Buhari Jamiri.”

“This fact was clearly established by the testimony of the two eyewitnesses, one a member of the BIAF-MILF and the other a civilian. Their accounts were beyond reproach as evidenced by their voluntary return of one M16 rifle with M203 GL which they recovered at the encounter site and their willingness to testify and risk their lives and the security of their families so that truth and justice will prevail,” the committee added.

The Nurhassan Jamiri that Parlade mentioned could be the same Nurhassan Jamiri named in the fact-finding report signed by Col. Gilberto Jose Roa of the Judge Advocate General’s Office, who headed the committee.

But the report did not mention the name Haji Laksas Dan Asnawi, aka Haji Dan Asnawi.

Salman Jawari of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of the MILF and lawyer Mary Ann Arnado of the Bantay Ceasefire were co-chairs of the committee, while Maranaw Danganan, Abbas Salung, Alex Mujahid, Analiza Ugay and Rexall Kaalim were members.

Danganan, Salung and Mujahid represented the CCCH-MILF, and Ugay and Kaalim the Bantay Ceasefire.

The MILF earlier claimed that the soldiers were not actually going after Abu Sayyaf leaders but Asnawi, a claim corroborated by the military.

Earlier reports quoted Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) as having said that “combined troops of the 13th Special Forces Company and 4th SF Battalion encountered an undetermined number of ASG and lawless MILF members at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday at Sitio Baquisong, Barangay Cambug in Albarka.”
“The soldiers were reportedly on a mission to look for Asnawi, who has a pending warrant of arrest. Asnawi was one of those responsible for the 2007 beheading of 14 marines at Albarka town. He was arrested in November 2009 but managed to escape from detention on December of that same year,” the report said.

The IJFFC also pointed out that the July 10, 2007 incident “could have been avoided had there been proper coordination and strict adherence to the established mechanisms pursuant to the
General Ceasefire Agreement by both parties thereby preventing the unnecessary loss of lives and properties and the displacement of the civilian constituents” in Al Barka.

In last week’s incident that killed 19 soldiers, the lack of proper coordination by the military before conducting their operation was also cited as one of the lapses.

The IJFFC report cited that the MILF “was also found to have violated the General Ceasefire Agreement when they opened fire at the unsuspecting Marines who entered Guinanta in search of the kidnapped Fr. Bossi on that fateful day of 10 July 2007.”

Senator Antonio Trillanes told a television network this morning that he would call for a Senate inquiry into the recent Al Barka incident and suggested that among those that will be reviewed are the terms of the truce between the government and the MILF.

Considering past incidents, Trillanes said there was a failure of intelligence on the part of the military officers as he added the need to also evaluate the number of troops sent on a mission.

The IJFFC was also able to “further establish that the ASG got the chance to perpetuate
their heinous crime when the forces of BIAF-MILF withdrew after the declaration of ceasefire through the intercession of Satar Ali, member of the Local Monitoring Team, Basilan in coordination with Maj. Macatoon of 1st Marine Brigade, who is an AHJAG member and the Joint CCCH.”

“Furthermore, the intrusion of the ASG during the encounter only proves that BIAF-MILF does not have an exclusive domain of the entire municipality of Al-Barka,” the 2007 report said.

Col. Alexander Macario, the relieved commander of Task Force Basilan, was earlier charged with alleged human rights violations against suspected ASG members, among them Abdul Khan Ajid.

Soldiers allegedly stripped Ajid naked and poured gasoline all over his body and into his ears. They also allegedly rubbed and stuffed his anus with red pepper, “after which a bottle full of gasoline was also forced into it. Then his captors set him on fire.”

Macario’s men also accosted Indal Hairun Ladjatua on suspicion that he is actually Harud Jaljalis, alias Indal, one of 286 persons with outstanding warrants of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court of Basilan for being alleged Abu Sayyaf members.

Macario told the Basilan Human Rights Action Network (Bahran), which documented the case, that the suspect is indeed Jaljalis since he could not present a birth certificate that would prove he is Ladjatua.

Nixon M. Alonzo, executive director of Bahran, however said that Jaljalis has long been detained in Bicutan for the same charge being imputed on Ladjatua. (Romy Elusfa/MindaNews Contributor)