Over 40 commandos killed in clash with MILF rebels

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Monday, 26 January 2015 - Last Updated on January 26, 2015

At least 40 elite police forces were killed in a clash with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) troops in Maguindanao early Sunday, putting the peace efforts in Mindanao in question.

The members of the Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) were supposedly out to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifi bin Hir alias Marwan but they attacked a position held by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the town of Mamapasano.

BIFF is a splinter group of the MILF which opposes the current peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.

The attack was confirmed by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in an Inquirer.net report. Iqbal said the clash was triggered by a “no-coordination police operation.”

Iqbal justified the deadly encounter as self-defense. “Sila ang pumasok. Pumasok tapos uma-atake, anong gagawin mo? Hindi pwedeng mag-baby du’n. Self-defense ang nangyari.”

Fresh reports said the number of combined fatalities among police forces and MILF rebels is at 49.

At least 20 commandos survived the MILF attack but are still in the area, according to Capt. Joanne Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson.

In a statement, government’s peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the incident must not hamper the peace process with the MILF.

“This incident and other recent acts of violence by other armed groups manifest the diverse security challenges that confound the peace process. But our resolve to see through the process of legislating the Bangsamoro Basic Law and implementing the different Normalization programs, including the security components, is only further strengthened,” Ferrer said.

President Aquino has yet to issue a statement on the carnage.

Following the deadly encounter, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. suspended the hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), one of the key expected outcomes of the government’s peace efforts with the MILF.

“We cannot, in conscience, proceed with these hearings while a cloud of serious doubt hangs over the security situation in the south. A peace agreement cannot be legislated under the threat of such extreme violence. Violence has no room in a civilized society,” he said in a report.

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