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Palace orders probe into military air strikes

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:21:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has ordered an investigation into allegations that civilians were killed in military air strikes against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in the southern province of Maguindanao.

“The fact remains that civilians were hit, so we need to investigate that,” Dureza said in an interview on radio station dzXL on Tuesday.

Under new operational guidelines calling for restraint during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Dureza said government forces could use artillery fire only during times of “extreme need.”

But based on initial reports, Dureza said it was the MILF rebels, on board 10 pump boats, that fired first at an Air Force OV-10 bomber plane.

“Under the rules of engagement, when you are fired upon [you fire back], so they also engaged those on the pump boats,” he added.

Dureza said there were also reports that the civilian casualties were not on the path of the OV-10 bomber aircraft.

“So there’s still a lot of investigation to be done but definitely there are rules of engagement that have to be followed by the ground troops,” he said.

According to MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu, at least six civilians, including two children and a pregnant teenager, were among those killed in military bombardments in Datu Piang town.

The military could not immediately confirm the civilian casualties.

Military offensives are ongoing in Central Mindanao against the groups of MILF commander Ameril Ombra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias Bravo, who led attacks on civilian communities in the provinces of
North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte last month.

“The law enforcement campaign will continue. This will stop only when the MILF leadership comes around and surrenders their commanders,” Dureza said.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-09-09T06:04:47+00:00UTC09bUTCTue, 09 Sep 2008 06:04:47 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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