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Palace laments airstrike accident

By: Francis T. Wakefield and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Malacañang yesterday extended its condolences to the family of two soldiers who were killed in an airstrike accident in Marawi City last Wednesday.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said a team has been created to investigate the events that led to the incident.

“On behalf of the President, we wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of the two soldiers who were killed in yesterday’s airstrike accident while fighting Maute rebel remnants,” Abella said.

“We are saddened by this unfortunate incident and a team has been created to investigate the circumstances that led to this tragedy,” he added.

Abella assured that the government will not forget the heroism of the two soldiers who risked their lives fighting the terrorists in Marawi.

“These fallen men in uniform laid down their lives for duty, flag, and country. Government will remember their heroism and will provide the necessary assistance to their bereaved families,” he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines yesterday pulled out all FA-50PH fighter jets being used in Marawi following the airstrike accident that injured 11 soldiers.

In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that the military is suspending the use of the aircraft for any further airstrike until such time that the cause of the accident has been determined or the failure of the equipment has been known.

“Until such time that we are sure of the cause of one those bombs falling short of target will we then resume the use of that aircraft,” Padilla said.

Padilla said despite the unfortunate incident, the aircraft used in the airstrike has had a very high success rate.

“Of the almost 70 missions that was performed by the aircraft except for this incident, all of their missions were dead on target. They hit their targets (with) specific precision,” Padilla said.

Padilla said the incident will not cancel out or prevent the use of any other aircraft for airstrikes so that they can provide troops the necessary support that they will need in terms of close air support, field artillery support, and other combat support.

Padilla said that based on information they received, an airstrike was conducted at around noon Wednesday following a request from ground commanders.

He said the aircraft dropped four bombs to destroy a target that was believed to have housed quite a number of remnants of the Maute Group but unfortunately, one of the bombs did not hit the target squarely and it fell short by about 250 meters.

“The bomb fell in an area proximate to a building where some of our men were staying and the ensuing blast caused part of that building to collapse and the debris that fell from the part of the collapsed structure fell on our men causing the death of two and injuries to 11 others,” Padilla said.

“So the bomb did not directly hit our troops but it caused that damage to that building which in turn caused the death of two of the soldiers who were in that area along with 11 others who were injured,” he added.

The identities of the fatalities have yet to be released by the military. The injured soldiers are now out of danger and on the road to recovery.