Marcos condemns ‘cowardly ambush’ of Philippine troops

BenarNews staff
Marcos condemns ‘cowardly ambush’ of Philippine troops Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte (right) comforts a survivor during a wake in Cotabato for four soldiers killed in an ambush by militants, March 18, 2024.
Philippine Army handout

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday promised swift justice for four soldiers killed by Filipino Islamic State militants in the southern Philippines over the weekend.

The military said suspected members of Daulah Islamiyah, a militant group, waylaid troops from the 3rd Cavalry of the 40th Infantry Battalion on Sunday in Maguindanao del Sur province, a hotbed of Islamic militancy. The troops were returning to base after distributing supplies to villagers near the town of Datu Hoffer.

“We strongly condemn the cowardly ambush that targeted four of our courageous soldiers in Maguindanao del Sur on March 17,” Marcos said in a statement. “The despicable act only strengthens our resolve to eradicate terrorism from the region and our entire nation.”

Marcos said his administration remained “resolute in our pledge to ensure that justice is swiftly served” for the fallen troops. He said he has instructed the military to quickly release financial assistance to the families of the fallen soldiers.

Reports reaching Marcos’ office said the troops had left a remote village where they had distributed food for residents in observance of Iftar, the breaking of the daily fast that Muslims observe during Ramadan.

Leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which includes Maguindanao del Sur, did not comment on the attack as they had not seen a report about it, according to military officials.

The autonomous region is home to a fragile peace between Manila and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front separatist guerrillas, who administer BARMM. The region has struggled with violence since its birth in 2019. 

On Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. extended his condolences to the families of the four “brave” soldiers who were killed. He said they were ambushed by at least 10 armed men.

“The AFP vows to hunt down the perpetrators and neutralize these ruthless killers to finally put a stop to their violent acts that disrupt peace and stability in the region,” Brawner said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

To the military, “neutralize” means the killing, arrest, capture or surrender of an enemy.

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Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte (second from left) speaks with military officers and a survivor of one of four soldiers killed on March 17 during a wake in Cotabato, March 18, 2024. [Philippine Army handout]

Brawner said the military efforts would focus on members of Daulah Islamiyah, which literally translates to the “Islamic State.” It includes fighters from several Filipino militant factions, including the Maute Group, which had provided men and logistics during a five-month siege of Marawi city by pro-IS fighters in 2017.

That siege, considered by security analysts as the biggest attack by the Islamic State in the region, was meant to take Marawi by force to make it the base in the region. Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern fighters attacked Marawi, leading to a five-month battle that killed at least 1,200 militants, military, police and civilians.  

Sunday’s attack came a little more than two months after two army intelligence operatives were killed in an ambush while gathering information against suspects linked to a bombing during a Catholic Mass in Marawi city in December 2023 that left four dead.

Jojo Riñoza and Gerard Carreon contributed to this report from Manila.


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