US denies any involvement in Mamasapano operation PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 February 2015 13:36

The US Embassy in Manila has denied any involvement in the January 25 botched anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where 44 police commandos were killed in a 12-hour fierce gunbattle with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  combatants and guerrillas of its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF)

The denial comes in the wake of Philippine newspaper reports and social media calling for investigation on allegations that US soldiers participated in the operation in Mamasapano with a mission to capture Malaysian bomb expert Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino counterpart Basit Usman.

Kurt Hoyer, press attaché and spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila, told MindaNews that US troops have not participated in the operation and that there was no help on intelligence nor drones used.

“Our involvement was as stated,” Hoyer said in a text message over the weekend.

“There were no US casualties,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer also denied a report of the Manila Standard that US military intelligence and drones were used in the Mamasapano operations.

The Standard quoted a police general as saying the US government “provided President Benigno Aquino III with ‘actionable intelligence’ to pin down the precise location” of Marwan,

“Let me be clear. Our involvement was as I stated. At the request of the AFP, US service members serving in JSOTF-P (Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines) responded to assist in the evacuation of casualties after the firefight in Maguindanao,” Hoyer said.

Cotabato City-based Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., former Notre Dame University President, had posted on Facebook that an informant told him one American soldier was killed and another injured during the operations.

The presence of US troops on Monday fueled speculations of US participation in the operations to get Marwan, who is the list of the US government’s most wanted terrorists and who was reported killed three years  ago in what was media reports described as a “US-backed airstrike” in Jolo, Sulu.

Marwan’s remains, however, were not found in the aftermath of the dawn operation that left at least 15 persons dead.

In the Mamasapano operation, the Philippine National Police declared that Marwan was killed and Usman eluded arrest.

PNP sources said that police commandos had carried Marwan’s body as they withdrew undercover of darkness in Mamasapano, an MILF and BIFF enclave. But at daybreak, the commandos came under heavy fire from the MILF and BIFF forces, pinning them down on an open corn field where the 44 police troopers died.

The same sources said the commandos, feeling the burden to carry Marwan’s body,  cut one of his fingers and took photos of his face and left his body behind and they were being rained with bullets. Most of the slain commandos were were killed while covering one of their companions carrying the cut finger and photos and fleeing out of the danger zone.

House Representatives of Bayan Muna partylist Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate last week filed a  resolution asking the Joint Committee on National Defense and Security; Public Order and Safety; and Peace, Unity and Reconciliation to investigate the alleged involvement not only of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima in the Mamasapano operations but also the United States’ alleged involvement.

In a press statement on Sunday, Zarate cited reports from witnesses in Maguindanao said at least one American soldier died during the fighting.

He cited a report from Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro, that they were able to interview a 40-year-old farmer in Brgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano who allegedly saw at least “one body of a Caucasian soldier” minutes after clash.

Zarate said he hopes to get the farmer-witness to testify during the investigation.

Zarate said the farmer, as well as other civilians who arrived in the village of Pimbalakan narrated seeing a helicopter that “hovered  over the bodies to carry ‘specific bodies.’”

Bayan Muna, a left-leaning group,  reiterated in its statement that the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement,  forbid foreign military troops from engaging in direct military operations in the Philippines.

Philippine Star Mindanao correspondent John Unson in his Facebook account  likewise quoted an unnamed witness who claimed to have seen a dead man with “blue eyes” being carried away together with the slain commandos.

MindaNews in its latest posting carried a photo of two US soldiers in civilian clothes assisting  in the evacuation of a wounded police commandos from the PNP provincial office in Shariff Aguak Maguindanao, to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division camp in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The United States’ National Counterterrorism Center in its website said Zulkifli, 49, an engineer trained in the United States, is believed head of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia (MM) allegedly a terror group, and a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah’s central command.

“Since August 2003, he has been present in the Philippines, where he is believed to have conducted bomb-making training for the Abu Sayyaf Group,” the NCTC website said.

Zulkifli carries a $5m (220 million pesos) reward for anyone who could provide information leading to his arrest, the NCTC said.

Abdul Basit Usman, described by the NCTC as a Filipino citizen, a “bomb-making expert” with links to the Abu Sayyaf and  the JI, carries a million dollar (44 million pesos) reward.