Two Marine Officers Sacked Over Basilan Clash

July 19, 2007 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BASILAN (Mindanao Examiner / 18 Jul) – The Philippine military on Thursday sacked two marine commanders who led troops in a fierce firefight with Moro rebels in the southern island of Basilan.

Fourteen soldiers were killed in fighting; ten of them beheaded, in the town of Al-Barka, a known stronghold of Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

Navy spokesman, Commander Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, said the two — Lt. Col. Felix Almadrones, commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 and operations officer Maj. Nestor Marcelino – will also face an investigation into the fighting.

”They have been relieved because of command responsibility and in order for them to shed light in the ongoing investigation,” Bacordo said.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with Manila, said the soldiers entered a rebel stronghold without coordination, sparking day-long clashes, a charge strongly denied by the island’s military chief, Marines Col. Ramiro Alivio.

Alivio said the soldiers were searching for a kidnapped Italian Catholic clergy Giancarlo Bossi, kidnapped June 10 in Zamboanga Sibugay province in Mindanao, in Al-Barka town when rebels, aided by the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda attacked the troops.

Bacordo said Lt. Col. Elmer Estilles replaced Almadrones and that Maj. Adolfo Avarate was named new operations chief of the local marine force.

Many marine soldiers on the island were disgruntled by the decision, but could do nothing.

Sattar Alih, head of the MILF cease-fire monitoring team in Basilan island, said rebel forces withdrew from the battle scene, leaving the bodies of soldiers behind, after military and rebels agreed to a cease-fire.

It was unknown who were behind the decapitation, but intelligence sources in Basilan have implicated unnamed politicians who allegedly supplied the Abu Sayyaf and with mortar rockets, weapons and munitions during the fighting.

Their private armies also fought against the military forces side-by-side with the MILF and that two gunmen had died in the skirmishes. The military is now investigating the reports. (With a report from Juley Reyes)

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