News   /   More

US 'played big role' in botched Philippines raid

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Philippines’ military forces carry the corpses of their fellow soldiers killed in clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, January 25, 2015.

A Philippine Senate report has revealed that US forces played a “substantial” role in a botched raid earlier this year that left 44 local police commandos dead.

Senator Grace Poe released on Tuesday the findings of a committee inquiry into the deadly police operation, known locally as Oplan Exodus, in January against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which seeks to establish an independent homeland in the troubled south of the Philippines.

"US personnel played a role in the training before, and monitoring, of the... operation," said Poe, adding, "The committee found that the United States substantially invested in the entirety of Oplan Exodus. It provided equipment, training and intelligence."

According to the report, three unnamed Americans were present at local army brigade headquarters during the police operation, creating tensions at a crucial time with the Philippine military commander.

"One of the Americans ordered Major General Edmundo Pangilinan to fire the artillery," the report read, adding, "However, Pangilinan refused and told him, 'Do not dictate to me what to do. I am the commander here.'"

Under a US-Philippines alliance, Washington provides military training and intelligence to Manila. However, American forces are forbidden to engage in combat.

The report also stated that although there was no evidence of US forces engaging in combat, there were concerns that Washington's influence on the Philippine National Police (PNP) was too strong.

In addition, it raised questions about the accountability of the US, which has so far declined to specify its role in the raid.

Furthermore, the report also stated that President Benigno Aquino must “bear responsibility” for the fatalities.

A US embassy spokesman in the Philippines did not immediately answer to requests for comment about the Senate report.

On January 25, a 12-hour gun battle between the Philippine military and the other front claimed the lives of 44 security forces and 18 MILF members in the country’s southern province of Maguindanao.

The aim of the police operation was to capture or kill two men on the US government’s so-called list of “most wanted terrorists.” The men, Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian national Zulkifli bin Hir, were living among MILF members in the southern farming communities of the Philippines. Hir was reportedly killed in the raid, but Usman escaped.

Following the raid, the MILF said it had acted in self-defense, with its vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar saying the unannounced presence of the Filipino armed forces led the MILF members to believe that they had come under attack.


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku