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PUNO ON MAGUINDANAO FIGHITNG ‘Civilian casualties likely used as human shields by MILF’

Posted by Abi Kwok on September 9, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:12:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The six civilians who allegedly died in a military air strike in Maguindanao Monday were possibly used as “human shields” by Moro rebels who were the target of military operations, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno claimed on Tuesday.

In an interview, Puno claimed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has a history of using civilians as human shields then pinning the blame on government troops.

“Siyempre lahat naman ng namamatay na civilians binibintang ng MILF sa AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines]. Pero alam naman natin na yung unang mga namatay na civilian, sila [MILF] naman ang pumatay [Of course, all slain civilians are blamed by the MILF on the AFP. But we know very well that the civilians who died earlier, they killed them,” Puno said, apparently referring to civilians who died in MILF attacks on civilian villages in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte last month.

The continuing hostilities in Central Mindanao are part of a government offensive against the MILFE commander and units blamed for the North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte attacks.

“At hindi naman lahat ng Muslim kakampi nila [MILF]. Kaya nga lumilikas yun [Muslim civilians] eh. Kung kakampi ba nila yun, eh, lilikas ba yun? Siyempre hindi nila kakampi yun [And not all Muslims are with them. That is why they are evacuating. If they were sympathizers, would they evacuate]?” Puno pointed out.

Puno said he has ordered the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Mindanao under Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio to investigate the civilian deaths, which reportedly include children and a pregnant teenager.

He also noted conflicting statements by witnesses and AFP officials.

Many accounts claim the civilians died when they were bombed by Air Force planes, while AFP officials said no bombs were used, only rocket and machinegun fire.

“To begin with, I don’t think those were [bombs]. I asked people on the field to check and they said those were not. Now was it shells from artillery? Mukhang hindi pa rin [it does not look like it]. So, just exactly what it was, we have to check,” Puno said.

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