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PNP still can’t locate SAF armored vehicle in Marawi

UNDER SIEGE. Members of the PNP SAF maneuver as they assault terrorists’ hide out near the city hall in Marawi City on May 28, 2017. Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – National police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Tuesday, May 30 confirmed that an armored personnel carrier (APC) belonging to the Special Action Force (SAF) had been left behind in the heat of battle between SAF forces and terrorists.

The APC is an “object of recovery” as Philippine troops continue clearing operations in Marawi City, Dela Rosa said in an interview in Marawi City on the sidelines of his visit there.

“Nalaglag yun while on their way to reinforce yung kapitolyo from the provincial headquarters, na land mine sila, na-ambush. Nung na-ambush, nasira yung gulong ng isa, naiwan sila. Nagkahiwalay. Nung nagkahiwalay, iba yung napuntahan ng isa hanggang sa naglaglag sa kana. Hindi na ma-maneuver. So hindi na makapag-manuever, wounded na yung crew, extricate na ‘yung crew,” explained Dela Rosa.

(It fell on their way to reinforce the capitol from the provincial headquarters. They got hit by a land mine, they were attacked. After they were attacked, one of the tires was broken. They got left behind, separated. When that happened, one team went the other way until it [the APC] fell into a canal. It was unable to maneuver. They couldn’t maneuver, the crew was wounded so the crew had to be extricated.)

A police source earlier told Rappler that the crew aboard the APC had been separated from a bigger group because of an encounter. The driver was later unable to drive because of injuries, prompting them to leave the vehicle behind.

The APC was carrying weapons.

Dela Rosa said the SAF troopers who were aboard the APC are alive and are being treated in nearby Iligan City.

News of the lost combat vehicle first spread after a picture of apparent Maute or Abu Sayyaf fighters standing on top of it went viral.

“Ayoko tignan. Baka mabaril ko yung cellphone ko, baka mabaril ko laptop ko (I don’t want to look at the photos. I might just shoot my cellphone, I might shoot my laptop),” said Dela Rosa in jest, when asked about the pictures.

Clashes between government troops and members of the terrorists groups began on May 23, after military and police conducted a “surgical strike" meant for Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader believed to have direct ties to ISIS. (READ: How a military raid triggered Marawi attacks)

The military was surprised to find that Maute and Abu Sayyaf members and sympathizers had already embedded in the city. They were said to be plotting to take over Marawi City at a later date.

The clashes prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao region under martial law for 60 days. The proclamation can be extended with Congress’ consent and can be questioned by the Supreme Court.

Duterte also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, meaning the military and police cannot be immediately compelled to show the body of a person believed to be in their custody.

Despite the declaration of martial law, policemen and soldiers are still expected to follow the rules of court when making arrests.

Police in the combat area – the Regional Public Safety Battalions of the ARMM, Northern Mindanao, and Soccsksargen regions, the SAF, and local police – are under the operational control of the military, according to Dela Rosa. – Rappler.com