MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – At least 10 soldiers were killed in a military air strike during operations to rid Marawi City of members of the Maute Group, said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday, June 1.
Another 7 soldiers were wounded during the air strike on Wednesday, May 31, said Lorenzana in a text message to Rappler.
An investigation, headed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año, is underway. But Lorenzana told Rappler that "initial report says pilot error."
In a press briefing at Malacañang on Thursday, Lorenzana explained that two military planes had been flying at the time. The first plane hit its target accurately, while the second one missed its target by around 100 meters and instead hit the soldiers.
"We are trying to ascertain how the first plane hit the target, 'yung second ang layo (the second one completely missed)," he said.
"Ang sasakupin niyan (The investigation will cover) what happened really – was there a failure to communicate? ... We will find out."
The bodies of the dead soldiers have been retrieved, and their families have already been informed.
"Sometimes mistakes happen," said Lorenzana. "We hope they don't happen but all we can do is to see to it that they don't happen again."
The defense chief also raised the possibility of limiting air strikes by using only precision-guided aircraft, but said the final decision lies with ground commanders. He said the bomb that hit the soldiers was a conventional one, not a precision-guided missile.
Lorenzana added that there may be no need for as many air strikes if more ground troops converge on areas in Marawi City still held by the Maute Group.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been informed of the incident. – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena and Pia Ranada / Rappler.com