MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday confirmed that 10 security forces were accidentally killed during an airstrike when a wayward bomb exploded in their position.
The Wednesday incident also resulted in the wounding of seven of their comrades.
“I got this report late yesterday that during the air strike conducted by the Air Force involving Marchetti SF-260 trainer jets. There were two planes flying and the first plane dropped their ordnance accurately, but the second missed and hit our troops,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during a press briefing in Malacañang.
“There were 10 killed in that unfortunate incident and seven wounded, they have been evacuated to Cagayan de Oro for proper disposition,” he said.
The incident happened as the military stepped up its use of surgical airstrikes to dislodge Islamist militants from their positions while limiting the risks of hitting civilians still trapped in the fighting.
Some military aircraft were outfitted with precision-guided munitions for this purpose.
However, Lorenzana said that the Marchetti S-260 trainer/attack jets involved in the incident were using conventional bombs.
But even then, he said that all previous airstrikes in Marawi City have been accurately hitting their targets.
The Defense Secretary said that investigations are already underway to ascertain how it happened that the first pass hit the target and the second pass hit 100 meters away where the troops were positioned.
“More than 100 meters is already far away. So there must be some mistake there either those people directing the bomb run on the ground or the pilot on the air,” Lorenzana said.
According to the Defense chief, the standard operating procedure in bombing runs involved constant communication between the ground commanders and the pilot.
The coordinates of the target are clearly marked on the operations map and no troops should be in the direct flight path of the aircraft.
In the meantime, the investigation, to be headed by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año, would take at least three to five days.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana said the use of subsequent airstrikes in the operation to dislodge the remaining Islamist militants holed out in their last strongholds in Marawi City are up to the discretion of the ground commanders.
“I give those decision to the ground commander to determine if they still need airstrikes there, especially now that there are more troops operating on the ground and the chances of hitting our own troops is very big like what happened yesterday,” he said.
“And maybe we have to limit the air strikes to the aircraft that can deliver accurately their ordnance,” Lorenzana said. CMR/PNA-northboundasia.com