Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rebel group claims responsibility for the killing of 2 US anti-terrorism soldiers in the Philippines

ZAMBONGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 3, 2009) – A shadowy group called the Bangsamoro National Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the dead roadside bombing that killed two US Special Forces soldiers and a Filipino marine in the southern Philippines.

Sergeant 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw of Markham, Illinois, 37; and Staff Sergeant Jack M. Martin III of Bethany, Oklahoma, 26, were killed on September 29 in the town of Indanan in Sulu province.

The Fort Lewis soldiers belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group. The US Department of Defense said the incident is under being investigated.

Madarang Sali, BNLA deputy supreme commander, said the attack on the American soldiers was in retaliation to the continued operations of the US and Philippine military against the Moro National Liberation Front in Sulu province.

He said MNLF and BNLA rebels planted the bomb that killed the three soldiers.

“The BNLA and MNLF members planted the bomb. The US forces are really involved in the operations in Sulu. The landmine used in the attack was that of the BNLA,” Sali said in a statement to the Mindanao Examiner.

The Philippine military previously blamed the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya for the attack on the US soldiers. It said those killed in the roadside bombing were non-combatants, but members of the US Navy Seabees who were involved in humanitarian missions in Sulu.

Sali said fighting between rebels and troops broke out again late Saturday afternoon in the village of Bunot in Indanan town.

“Fighting again erupted (in the village) and they will suffer defeat. The Bangsamoro revolutionary forces have declared a jihad (holy war) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine government for the Bangsamoro homeland,” Sali, also the spokesman for the Bangsamoro Federated States of Sulu Archipelago.

The clashes erupted after rebel forces bombed a bridge late Friday in the village of Bunot. It was the third time rebels bombed bridges in Sulu in a span of two weeks.

Marine Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the bombing of the bridges and the attack on the US forces.

Sali branded as lies and propaganda Dolorfino’s statement. “It is purely the operations of the BNLA and the MNLF, not the Abu Sayyaf or the Jemaah Islamiya,” he said.

He said the BNLA is headed by Lieutenant General Abdulnasser Iskandar, while the MNLF are under the command of Ustadz Habier Malik, Khaid Ajibun and Tahil Usman.

Dolorfino said troops were tracking down at least four most senior Abu Sayyaf leaders – Dr Abu, Albader Parad, Isnilon Hapilon and Yasser Igasan – including two foreign Jemaah Islamiya terrorists Mauiya and Quayem and some 200 followers.

The killing of the two US Special Forces soldiers further bolstered suspicions that American troops joined counterterrorism operations in Sulu where 42 militants and soldiers were killed in recent clashes in Indanan town.

Sali said only 10 MNLF rebels were killed in the fighting – seven under Malik and three more under the command of Ajibun. He warned of more attacks against US troops if they continue participating in combat operations in Sulu.

US troops have been are deployed in Sulu since 2006 and assisting the Philippine military in defeating the Abu Sayyaf. Although security officials deny US forces were directly involved in combat operations, there were numerous reports from civilians and various civil groups that American soldiers actually participated in the operations aimed at capturing or killing militant leaders in Sulu and other parts of Mindanao.

On Thursday, Moro rebels ambushed marine troops in Sulu’s Panamao town and sparking a fierce firefight that left one soldier and three gunmen dead. Nine soldiers were also wounded in the clashes.

The MNLF signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996, but many of its members were disgruntled with the accord and accused the government of failing to uplift their living standards.

Sali last week said the military offensive targeted the MNLF in Sulu. He said Ajibun escaped a military raid last week in the province. (With a report from Geo Solmerano)

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