Philippines sacks head of police unit after deadly clash

MANILA – The head of a police unit was sacked on Tuesday after 44 officers were killed in a deadly clash with Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the government had ordered an investigation into Sunday’s clash in [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]the town of Mamasapano of Maguindanao province, 960 kilometres south of Manila.
“I ordered the relief of Special Action Force Chief Director Getulio Napenas pending the outcome of the board of inquiry.
“He was given the chance to help recover the body of his men, but today he was recalled back to Manila,” he said.
Napenas dispatched nearly 400 police officers to Mamasapano to arrest two suspected Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants, but the operation triggered a clash with rebels that left 44 policemen and six guerrillas dead.
The fighting has been described as the worst since the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, signed a peace deal in March.
Under the agreement, a new autonomous Muslim entity is expected to be set up in the southern region of Mindanao by 2016 through a law being deliberated by Congress
The law would also be ratified by a popular plebiscite.
Congress on Monday suspended discussion on the proposed Bangsamoro (Muslim nation) law, and demanded an explanation from the MILF about the killing of the policemen.
Some former security officials demanded retaliation for the deaths.
“We should go after the leaders of the MILF who led the killing of the policemen,” said former national police chief and Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim.
“Should we just forget that more than 40 policemen died? The peace process cannot be one-sided. Both sides have to observe what they have agreed upon,” he said.
The MILF insisted the clash was a “misencounter,” after the police allegedly failed to coordinate the operation that targeted suspect JI militants Zulkifli bin Hir and Basit Usman.
Authorities say they believed that suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli, alias Marwan, was killed in the fighting.
Authorities have however ordered a DNA test.
Miriam Coronel Ferrer, the government’s chief peace negotiator with the MILF, appealed for calm and stressed that the government was committed to make the peace deal work.
“We need to save the peace process. Let this not be a reason for us to go back to war.
“All things can be resolved through negotiations as long as we are open-minded and have understanding,” she said. (NAN/dpa)

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