Friendly fire kills 6 soldiers in Sulu
MANILA, Phililppines – They were killed by fellow soldiers in what the military calls an unfortunate "accident" that came about probably because of "combat stress."
Six members of the Armed Forces' elite Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) were killed on June 19, 2014 in Patikul, Sulu, when they were hit by 105-mm howitzer fire from the Marines that was meant for the enemy - the Abu Sayyaf, according to military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.
The early morning tragedy was initially blamed on the Abu Sayyaf. The Marines at the time were exchanging heavy gunfire with the terrorist group, which cost the life of First Lieutenant Roger Flores and wounded 12 other Marines.
After Flores was hit, his unit asked for fire support from headquarters. The Marine base responded. But a military probe showed that instead of hitting the Abu Sayyaf, the howitzer landed on the forward base camp of JSOG, killing 6 soldiers inside and wounding 11 others, Zagala said, citing a report from the military's Board of Inquiry (BOI).
The BOI submitted on Monday, July 7, the result of its preliminary investigation on the incident. But no decision has been made yet on whether the troops involved would be punished for what happened, Zagala said. "The chief of staff was saddened by it because it was friendly fire," Zagala added, referring to Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista, who is scheduled to retire on July 20.
"There are many factors. Friendly fire doesn't happen just here in the Philippines. These are the realities of combat. These are the realities of conflict," Zagala said.
"Although they died from friendly fire, it does not diminish their acts of courage. They are still part of operations against terrorists and we consider them as heroes," Zagala added.
The Marines and the Abu Sayyaf have been caught in a series of encounters in recent months.
In April 2014, one Marine soldier was killed while 14 Abu Sayyaf members were slain in Patikul. The Abu Sayyaf was trying to regain their captured camp in the town, the military said then.
Sulu remains to be a bailiwick of the armed group, which is also behind the kidnapping of civilians and foreigners in the island province. – Rappler.com
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