MILF: 64 cops were killed

MILF: 64 cops were killed
Policemen carry the body bag of a comrade, one of 64 members of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police who died in a clash with Moro fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, while on a mission to arrest a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert. Eight Moro fighters were reported killed.

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reported on Monday that 64 bodies were recovered from the site of a clash between its fighters and police commandos on Sunday.

A report by MILF investigators, which was submitted to the MILF Central Committee, said the 64 bodies belonged to the US-trained police commandos who entered this town early on Sunday to serve warrants of arrest on Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) commander Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias "Marwan," a bomb expert linked to the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Marwan is on the US list of most wanted terrorists, with US$5 million (S$6.72 million) offered for his arrest. Usman has a US$2-million price on his head. He is a local terrorist, not a Malaysian as earlier reported.

Marwan was reportedly killed during the clash, but Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the military was still investigating to see if the report was valid.

The MILF report said 36 of the slain policemen belonged to one police unit and 28 belonged to another unit. The units were not identified in the report.

The report also said eight members of the MILF and the BIFF were killed, while more than a dozen were wounded in the clash.

Abdulaziz Antao, an MILF investigator, told the Inquirer that the bodies of the 64 policemen and the bodies of the Moro guerrillas were recovered by volunteer residents.

Disclosure of the slain policemen's names has to be coordinated with the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group of the government and the MILF, Antao said.

Bodies returned

He said the bodies of the slain members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) were loaded in a truck and transported to the headquarters of the Philippine Army's 6th Division in Awang town, Maguindanao province, at noon on Monday.

Residents of Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak town watched as a 10-vehicle police convoy, including the truck carrying the bodies of the slain policemen, passed by.

"We can't allow this kind of incident to just pass without anyone being held responsible," a police officer who refused to be identified told the Inquirer.

The government reported fewer casualties in the clash, as security forces were still trying to extract bodies from the clash site, the PNP said.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas called the clash a "misencounter" between SAF members and MILF and BIFF rebels.

Roxas said 43 SAF commandos running after Marwan and Usman were killed in the clash with MILF and BIFF guerrillas.

It was the "single largest loss of life" in the history of the country's security forces, he said.

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