Philippine police commander fired after 44 commandos die

Philippine police commander fired after 44 commandos die
Updated 28 January 2015

Philippine police commander fired after 44 commandos die

Philippine police commander fired after 44 commandos die

MANILA: Philippine officials have removed the commander of a police special action force from his post after at least 44 anti-terror commandos were killed in a clash with rebels in the country’s south.
The government’s biggest single-day combat loss in recent memory shocked many and led to fears it could endanger a recent peace deal signed with the biggest rebel group.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Tuesday that police Director Getulio Napenas did not clear Sunday’s assault on top terror suspects in a remote village near Mamasapano town with him or the national police chief.
Roxas said the commandos may have killed one of their terror targets, but also became entangled in separate firefights with insurgents and members of the main rebel group, the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He said 44 commandos were killed and 12 others were wounded.
Roxas called the commandos “fallen heroes” who sacrificed their lives to try to capture Malaysian bombing suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan. He may have been killed and efforts are underway to confirm whether that is true, Roxas said.
Another terror suspect, Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman, managed to escape, Roxas said.
The United States has offered up to $5 million for Marwan’s capture and $1 million for Usman. Both have been blamed by US and Philippine authorities for deadly bomb attacks and providing bomb-making training to Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the country’s south.
After attacking Marwan, the police commandos came under fire from insurgents in the village, and some strayed elsewhere and became entangled in a firefight with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, national police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said.
The Moro rebels signed a peace deal with the government last March that aims to establish a more powerful and better-funded autonomous region for minority Muslims in the south and end a decades-long rebellion. The conflict has left 150,000 people dead and helped stunt development in the country’s poorest regions.
Under the terms of a cease-fire, government forces are required to coordinate their anti-terror assaults and other law enforcement operations with the Moro rebels to prevent accidental clashes. But the police commandos did not notify the rebels before they entered the rebel stronghold in the dark, Moro rebel leader Mohagher Iqbal said.
“If somebody barges into your house, what will you do?” Iqbal said by telephone on Monday.
He said the Moro group would file a protest over the action of the police commandos, adding that he hoped the incident would not undermine the peace process, a view shared by Philippine officials.