BIFF mortars, not AFP artillery, destroyed Maguindanao houses – military

Mourners take part in a memorial for the victims of the Mamasapano encounter in front of the Philippine National Police Headquarters in Quezon City Tuesday. The groups demand truth and accountability from those involved in the bloody clash, which resulted in the death of 44 PNP-SAF officers, 18 Moro rebels, and 7 civilians. (MNS photo)

Mourners take part in a memorial for the victims of the Mamasapano encounter in front of the Philippine National Police Headquarters in Quezon City Tuesday. The groups demand truth and accountability from those involved in the bloody clash, which resulted in the death of 44 PNP-SAF officers, 18 Moro rebels, and 7 civilians. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Mortar fire from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, not military artillery, destroyed houses in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Wednesday.

Reacting to complaints by residents of Elian in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs chief, quoted reports from units involved in the ongoing “all-out” offensive against the BIFF that “when they were approaching the said community, the BIFF bombarded them with mortar fire, hitting the said houses.”

He also said field reports showed “the adjacent house where the alleged artillery fire occurred remains intact, a sign that the damage could not have been caused by a 105mm (howitzer shell) high explosive blast.”

Cabunoc said the AFP has declared civilian communities “no fire areas,” meaning no high explosive munitions, whether from the ground or the air, can be used there.

Nevertheless, he said, 6th Infantry Division commander, Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, “has ordered a civil military operations battalion to assess the reported damage and to extend assistance in repairing houses” as he assured that the AFP would “adhere to the rules of engagement and the provisions of International Humanitarian Law to ensure that civilians are protected during the conduct of law enforcement operations.” (MNS)

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