COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 14, 2009) – Philippine soldiers killed a Muslim girl and injured two others during a raid on a suspected terrorist hideout in Maguindanao province in Mindanao, human rights advocates said.
The Liga ng Kabataang Moro said troops opened fire on a house in Sultan Kudarat town and killing the eleven-year girl. Two other house occupants were wounded in the weekend assault.
“The (military) operation did not follow standard search operation procedure, military entered the house without even knocking the door and began firing that led to death of a young girl and wounded others. We condemned this on the highest term,” said Michael Dumamba, the group’s secretariat.
The SALINLAHI Alliance for Children's Concerns, an umbrella organization of child-focused organizations in the Philippines, also condemned the killing and called on the Commission on Human Rights and Congress to investigate the girl’s death.
It said the soldiers were members of the Task Force Tugis of Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
“The raid conducted by Task Force Tugis showed incompetence and is obviously inconsistent with proper rules of engagement. Such act is utterly condemnable as it is a clear violation of the child’s basic right to life,” said Sophia Garduce, a spokeswoman for the SALINLAHI.
Militant groups and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front also blamed the military for many human rights violations in Mindanao.
Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman, said the girl was killed in a shootout between soldiers and gunmen and that authorities were investigating the incident.
“There is an investigation and we cannot say who killed the girl unless the probe in completed by the police,” Ponce said.
He said three suspected bombers were arrested during the raid and troops recovered an improvised explosive assembled from a 60mm mortar. Ponce did not say whether the trio was members of the MILF or other rebel groups.
Ponce has put the blame of every single bombing in Mindanao to the MILF, which is fighting for self-determination in the volatile, but mineral-rich region. (Mindanao Examiner)