Ten soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded by “friendly fire” during a bombing run by military bomber jets targeting Moro militants in besieged Marawi City.
On May 23, Wednesday, a Marchetti S-211 jet was bombing a militant position when one bomb hit the troopers who were locked in close-range combat with the terrorist groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed pain at the tragedy.
“It’s painful, it’s very sad to be hitting our own troops,” Lorenzana said at a press conference in Manila a day after the incident.
The fatal airstrike added ten more casualties on the government side since fighting began on May 23, a day after terrorists —Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group — attacked the capital city of Lanao del Sur in western Mindanao.
“There were two planes flying. The first plane dropped the ordnance accurately, the second went wrong and hit our troops,” Lorenzana said explaining the incident.
Ordinary ordnance and not precision-bombs were used in the air strike, according to Lorenzana.
Precision-guided bombs were used earlier in airstrikes in Marawi’s urban areas, but the military ran out of the high-tech munitions and used conventional ones in the bombing run, he said.
He said accidents like friendly fire can happen at the warfront.
“Sometimes, in the fog of war, a lot of things could happen,” he said.
Lorenzana, however, said that the botched air strike was the first time for the military.
The Defense chief said a Board of Inquiry will look into the tragedy.
The militant attack on the predominantly-Muslim city was triggered by a military raid to capture Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was reported to be hiding in a barangay.
Hapilon is said to be the designated leader in Southeast Asia of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iran and Iraq (ISIS).
ISIS, considered as the most violent terrorist group today, is said to be exporting its web of violence world-wide.
Terrorism experts say the Marawi City attack was a prelude to the Abu Sayyaf plan to make Mindanao the epicenter of terrorism in the Southeast Asian region.
Foreign terrorists were said to be involved in the Marawi siege, the military said.
Eight of the militants killed in the ongoing military action are said to be Indonesians and Malaysians and a few of Middle Eastern origin.
Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said air strikes could end with speed the militant occupation of the city.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, said surgical air strikes will wipe out the terrorists holding fort in private homes, government buildings and other facilities.
“Their refusal to surrender is holding the city captive. Hence, it is now increasingly becoming necessary to use more surgical air strikes to clear the city and to bring this rebellion to a quicker end,” Padilla told state-owned Philippine News Agency on May 27.
PNA reported that while Padilla did not give specific type of aircraft to be used in the air strike , the AFP is known to operate MG-520 and AW-109 attack helicopters along with OV-10 and SF-260 light bombers in the region for counter-terror and anti-insurgency .
“We desire to free Marawi City of these evil forces. We appeal for everyones understanding as we take the necessary steps to accomplish our mission and prevent the loss of more innocent lives and damage to private and public property,” Padilla said.