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Probers asked to invite US Embassy officials

By: - Correspondent / @kmanlupigINQ
/ 04:15 AM February 02, 2015

DAVAO CITY—With reports of residents witnessing US military forces during the incident in Mamasapano that left at least 60 people, including 44 police commandos, dead, militant lawmakers on Sunday said officials from the US Embassy should be invited to the inquiry in Congress.

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said it was “imperative that a thorough investigation be launched immediately by Congress to get to the truth” after the reports of US involvement in the incident.

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Zarate said a witness in Maguindanao claimed that at least one American soldier died in the fierce fighting between Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and guerrillas from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.

Zarate said Jerome Aba, national spokesman of Suara Bangsamoro, interviewed a farmer in Tukanalipao village who saw the body of a Caucasian soldier on the site of the gun battle.

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“Of course, Aba declined to reveal the name of the witness for security reasons. I hope to get the witness to testify during the investigation,” Zarate said.

“[Civilian residents of Tukanalipao] were the first ones to arrive in one of the two areas where the encounters happened,” Zarate said.

The residents arrived in the area after the MILF guerrillas had withdrawn, he said.

“The farmer, as well as other civilians who arrived in the area, also said they saw one particular helicopter, among others that shortly arrived in the area, hover over the bodies to carry ‘specific bodies,’” Zarate said.

Zarate said the Suara Bangsamoro’s “discovery” of the US military’s “direct involvement” in the SAF operation to take down international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Basit Usman came “after reports of four Americans seen in Mamasapano in the aftermath of the clashes surfaced.”

Bayan Muna asserted that the 1987 Constitution and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States prohibit US troops from engaging in direct military operations in the Philippines.

But with the reports about the role of US forces in the operation, US Embassy officials should be summoned to the congressional investigation, it said.

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“We will ask that US Embassy [officials] be summoned and we hope the embassy officials will not use [their] diplomatic immunity and answer questions [about the US] role in the bloody operation,” Colmenares said.

Zarate said the reports must be explained, especially because the Mamasapano mission was similar to the US Navy Seals operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in March 2011.

“There are more questions now than when this was exposed. [Since] the SAF commander [has said] Operation Wolverine is very much like the US operation to get Osama bin Laden, then he has already admitted that this botched operation has US backing, support and participation,” Zarate said.

“Another question is, how are we certain that the US agents seen in the evacuation of the dead and wounded SAF did not take the reported US soldier who died, or the supposed body of Marwan or his cut finger for them to test for his DNA?” Zarate said.

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TAGS: Congress, Inquiry, Mamasapano clash, MILF, Police, SAF commandos, US, US embassy
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