By Genalyn Kabiling
The military is considering limiting or suspending the air strikes in Marawi City following the death of 10 soldiers in a botched bombing run, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced on Thursday.
The possible change in military strategy aims to prevent a repeat of the mistake of hitting government troops battling terrorists in the area, according to Lorenzana.
“It will be the call of the ground commander if they need the strikes pero medyo limitahan muna natin ‘yung strike to the aircraft that can deliver accurately,” said Lorenzana, the martial law administrator in Mindanao.
“We are pouring more troops there that’s why I said a while ago baka we might suspend for a while the air strikes and let the ground troops do their thing,” he said in a Malacañang Palace press conference.
Lorenzana said it was “unfortunate” that 10 soldiers were killed and seven others wounded in a friendly fire air strike in Marawi City. Two trainer jets launched the bomb raid last Wednesday but the second one missed its target and hit several government soldiers, he said.
“There were two planes flying and the first plane dropped their ordnance accurately pero ‘yung pangalawa sumablay, tumama doon sa tropa natin,” Lorenzana said.
“There must be some mistake there – either the people directing the bomb run on the ground or the pilot on the air,” he added.
According to Lorenzana, the incident is now under investigation by a panel led by the Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año to ferret out the truth and hold accountable those involved. Among the factors that will be looked into, he said, are possible pilot error and lack of coordination.
“We are still investigating, conducting an investigation headed by the Chief of Staff on what really happened; kung nagkaroon ba ng miscommunication or was there an error by somebody there on the ground or on the air sa parte ng piloto,” he said.
Lorenzana said he expects the results of the investigation in the next three to five days.
He said PresidentDuterte has been informed about the incident. “I know that he feels very badly and he feels sad about this incident,” he said.
He said the ground commanders are now reviewing their standard operating procedures to avoid any more friendly fires. “It’s very sad to be hitting our own troops,” he added.
He admitted that the chances of hitting troops are “very big” since there are more troops operating on the ground. “And siguro we have to limit the air strikes to the aircrafts that can deliver accurately their ordnance,” he added.
Air strikes may no longer be needed once the troops have converged near the “strong pocket of resistance” in Marawi, said Lorenzana.
“If there are troops surrounding the area already, then the more we do not need the strikes. Maybe we will need the armored vehicles,” he said.
“Sometimes mistake happens. And we hope those mistakes do not happen and nangyari nga. And all we can do is to see to it that it will not happen again,” he said.
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