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Philippine Military Kills 11 of Its Soldiers in Errant Airstrike

The stubborn resistance of the insurgents has been undercutting the military’s frequent claims of success in subduing them. Philippine lawmakers on Thursday sharply criticized the government’s handling of the battle in the wake of the soldiers’ deaths.

Representative Gary Alejano, a former marine captain, urged the government to “reconsider airstrikes and bombing runs and artillery bombardments in built-up areas, as it will cause tremendous damage to the properties of the people of Marawi.”

“Once the dust settles, the people of Marawi might not have homes anymore to go back to,” he added.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told The Associated Press that the plane involved in the attack, a Marchetti S-211 jet, was conducting a bombing run over insurgent positions when one bomb hit soldiers who were engaged in close combat with the fighters.

The Marchetti S-211 is a trainer jet that the Philippine Air Force later upgraded to give it attack capability. But the website MaxDefense Philippines said it had a poor serviceability record and funding issues and lacked many of the capabilities of typical attack jets, like radar and internal guns.

The Philippine military previously said that it was conducting “precision airstrikes” on militant positions in an effort to dislodge them. The military has also been using a combination of soldiers and helicopters to try to defeat the rebels.

A military statement issued on Thursday afternoon said that the errant airstrike came after other successful bombing runs but that “the last ordnance round it delivered went wayward for an unknown reason” and hit the soldiers.

The Philippine Air Force has seen little combat. Shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte took power last year, he questioned the country’s decision to buy more technically advanced FA-50 supersonic fighter jets from South Korea.

“What a waste of money,” he said. “You cannot use them for anti-insurgency, which is the problem at the moment. You can only use these for ceremonial flyby.”

Mr. Duterte declared martial law in the southern Philippines shortly after hostilities began in Marawi early last week. The fighting erupted as the president was enjoying wide popularity among Filipinos for his crackdown on drugs, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and drawn criticism from human rights groups and Western governments for its bloodiness.

In recent days, Mr. Duterte and his government have been portraying the fight as against foreign ISIS fighters who have infiltrated the area, instead of just against local militants, saying Thursday the rebellion is “purely ISIS.”

Source: NYT > World

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