Friday, June 2, 2017

Hapilon group using civilians as human shields amid military offensive

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 2): Hapilon group using civilians as human shields amid military offensive

The Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists, led by Isnilon Hapilon, are now using children and other innocent civilians and even mosques to gain advantage against government troops in Marawi City.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), yesterday said the terrorists continued to put up a fight at press time yesterday — the timeframe earlier given by the Department of Defense to address the siege.

“The enemy continues to occupy commercial buildings as their defensible enemy lairs and this is the subject of military action being conducted from the past few days until now,” he stressed.

Hapilon and his IS-inspired followers from the Abu Sayyaf andMaute group have launched wide-scale atrocities in Marawi City last May 23 after government troops attempted to arrest him.

Military forces have been pounding identified positions of the terrorists at the heart of Marawi City with air strikes and ground assaults.

Apart from occupying vantage positions, Padilla said the terrorists are now using innocent civilians as human shields.

“Compounding the situation on the ground is the use of these forces, these armed elements of children and civilians as human shields,” he noted.

“Apart from that, they have also been turning into the madrasahs as staging areas and the mosque as sniper nest thereby hoping to limit the movement of our forces and their capability to neutralize them,” he added.

Padilla stressed the military continued to apply “commensurate military power” on these existing threats and pockets of resistance.

He said the AFP will continue to conduct air strike against the terrorists even after Wednesday’s friendly fire that killed 10 Army soldiers and wounded seven others.

Padilla clarified only 10 soldiers, not 11 as earlier reported, were killed in the friendly fire. He said another soldier was killed in a firefight with the terrorists also on Wednesday.

As of yesterday, Padilla said a total of 120 terrorists have been killed since the atrocities started while the government suffered 36 casualties. More than 80 others were wounded.

Padilla said civilian death toll remains at 19, pending the continuing clearing operations despite reports that more were likely killed.

“The reports remain for validation and until such time that these are validated accordingly, we cannot include them,” he added.

Civilians rescued in the ongoing operations have also increased to 1,024.

Maute to blame for ‘friendly fire’

Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, blamed the Maute group for the “friendly fire” that killed 10 soldiers in Marawi City.

House Deputy Minority Leader Alfredo Garbin cited the legal principle of “proximate cause” in pinning the blame on the Maute for the soldiers’ death.

“He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil cause,” he stressed.

A Philippine Air Force plane was doing bombing rounds to flush the terrorists out of the city when the incident happened.

According to Garbin, under the proximate cause tenet, the person who caused something bad to happen is the person who should be charged in court.

“But then again AFP should be extra cautious and improve its capability and intelligence on the ground to avoid similar incidence and the continued loss of precious lives, including our soldiers,” he said.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles also believes the guilty party is the Maute.

“Casualties resulting to unexpected mishaps are certainly something that we should frown on but in war, things like these can happen. Miscommunication can happen amid the chaos of war and our soldiers in the field, no matter how hard they train, may commit mistakes,” he said.

Nograles, who is a lawyer like Garbin, added: “We have no one else to blame for his incident but the terrorists who are spreading this wickedness.”

The lawmakers came out with the statement even as the AFP started its own investigation on the incident.

Sources of terrorist weaponry

The military, for its part, said it will trace the source of the Maute group’s high-powered firearms and ammunition once Marawi City has been cleared of terrorists.

“On the firearms they are using against government security troops, it looks like they have stockpiled them for some time, and we have captured a lot of them in the past few days. We will know where they acquired them once our investigation starts,” Padilla said in Filipino.

While he did not identify any possible supplier, the military official said they are not discounting the possibility that the group’s weapons and ammunition are sourced from the black market or from undisciplined government security force personnel.

He added some of these weapons could have come from police and jail facilities that they attacked, looted and set afire after freeing the prisoners last week.

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