THE military on Friday said that airstrikes against Maute terrorists in Marawi City would not stop despite a botched bombing run that accidentally killed 10 soldiers.
“We continue to apply commensurate military power on these existing threats and pockets of resistance, and we’ll continue to do so, including the use of airstrikes,” Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Restituto Padilla said.
Following the incident, however, all Marchetti S-260 jets would be temporarily grounded, he said.
“There are other air assets available to the ground commander that he can employ to support our troops,” Padilla said.
The aircraft and crew involved in the ill-fated airstrike have been pulled out of Marawi and brought back to their headquarters for debriefing and counseling.
“You know, the worst scenario that can be likened to the worst nightmare for every pilot... is to have an incident like this,” Padilla said.
“So we need to assist and help our personnel overcome this. At the same time, our Army is also helping the bereaved families go through this very trying time.”
Padilla corrected his earlier pronouncements that 11 soldiers died in the incident.
He said that only 10 soldiers died as a result of friendly fire. One was killed by the enemy after the incident.
Padilla said there would be no let-up in the attack, despite a threat from the terrorists that would kill civilian hostages.
“The current focus of operation of our military forces remains to be the clearing of Marawi from armed elements that have still holed up in the area; the continued rescue operations for trapped residents; the continued recovery of civilian victims and potential casualties who have been victimized from atrocities from the armed elements; and the continued assistance that we can provide to the LGUs, the NGOs, CSOs who are conducting white helmet or relief operations,” he said.
“Continued efforts also are being exerted in our collaboration and coordination with other concerned agencies to ascertain the status of victims whose families continue to ask for assistance on their whereabouts, as well as those of the hostages that are known to us,” he added.
Padilla said the terrorists must surrender or face the consequences.
“We hope the armed bandits will come to their senses, surrender or face the dire consequences of military action and that means sure death,” he said.
Padilla acknowledged that the military would be hard-pressed to meet the original June 2 deadline set by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to get Marawi City back to normal.
“Based on the reports that we’re getting, I don’t think we can meet that deadline today to completely free Marawi of every single armed element in every street,” Padilla said.
“Until such time that every member of this armed group, this rebellious group that still wants to make a stand inside Marawi, exists, we cannot totally say we have cleared Marawi,” added Padilla.
“The enemy continues to occupy commercial buildings as their defensible enemy lairs, and this is the subject of military action being conducted for the past few days until now,” Padilla said.
Complicating the situation, he said, was the terrorists’ use of civilians as human shields.
The National Bureau of Investigation on Friday began the search for members of the terrorist groups accused of staging a rebellion in Marawi City.
NBI spokesperson Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said agents have been mobilized to carry out Lorenzana’s order to arrest the Maute group suspects.
Lorenzana, who is the martial law administrator in Mindanao, ordered the police, military, and the NBI to arrest 139 individuals identified as members of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf group, and their sympathizers for the crime of rebellion. With Sandy Araneta
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