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Planes in botched airstrike grounded

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has grounded its 30 SF260 Marchetti trainer-attack aircraft pending the result of the investigation on the botched airstrike that killed 11 soldiers and wounded seven others in Marawi City.

“Pending the result of the investigation we may defer the use of SF260 for the meantime but we will continue using all other available ground air and naval assets in order to resolve this crisis quickly,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said yesterday.

“We are doing our best to comply with the timeline but what is more important is to finish our job with the minimum loss of soldiers’ and civilians’ lives,” Año said.

Año said he has ordered the AFP Inspector General to create a Board of Inquiry led by Major Gen. Rafael Valencia to investigate the friendly fire incident.

“It was very unfortunate and no one wanted it to happen. I am deeply saddened and the whole AFP commiserate with the bereaved families with deep regret,” Año said.

“I want to assure the public that it will not happen again and I ensure that all measures and actions are being implemented in order to resolve the Marawi crisis at the soonest possible time without jeopardizing the lives of innocent civilians,” he added.

Meanwhile, the pilot of the SF260 aircraft in the botched airstrike is currently under the administrative control of his unit.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the Philippine Air Force pilot will not be allowed to fly pending the result of the investigation.

“In this kind of incidents, he will not be allowed to fly. They are under the administrative control of his unit and in the conduct of the investigation he will be made available to answer any questions coming from the Board of Inquiry,” Padilla said during a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Padilla said despite the unfortunate incident, soldiers currently engaged in gun battle with members of the Maute Group in Marawi are determined to finish off the enemy.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that an estimated 100 Maute Group members are said to be still scattered in various parts of the city.

“Our soldiers are still determined to do its mission. Every soldier who made the pledge in the AFP knows what they are facing, the risk involved in being a soldier, an airman, a sailor, a marine is very much in the heart of every soldier,” Padilla said.

“He knows, we know what we are entering into but the mission continue,” he said. (Francis T. Wakefield)