Gunmen torch Marwan’s hut
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2015 - 12:00am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Unidentified gunmen burned down the hut used by slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan in a remote village in Mamasapano.

The hut was torched late Tuesday, just hours after members of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Board of Inquiry made an ocular inspection of the site where 44 commandos of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in a firefight with Muslim rebels in Barangay Tukanalipao on Jan. 25.

The SAF policemen were on a mission to capture Zulkifli, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Abdul Basit Usman.

The mission went haywire when the policemen, after killing Marwan, figured in a firefight with a large force of Muslim rebels in the area, leaving 44 of the lawmen dead and several others wounded.

Mamasapano town police chief Inspector Reggie Abellera said witnesses saw Marwan’s house being torched by heavily armed men.

“We have confirmed that from barangay folks and community leaders,” Abellera said.

Villagers told Army officials in Mamasapano that the gunmen used dried coconut palms and kerosene in setting Marwan’s house on fire.

“We can only confirm the incident. We can’t issue any statement about it because that is a police matter and police investigators are the ones who would determine the identities of the arsonists,” an Army officer said.

Abellera said they are still trying to establish the identities of the arsonists.

“We have yet to establish the identities of the armed men but initial information indicated that they belong to the BIFF,” Abellera said, referring to the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The area of encounter in Barangays Inog-og, Pidsandawan and Tukanalipao is a known stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the BIFF.

The BIFF is not covered by the government-MILF ceasefire agreement in July 2007.

“They (BOI team) had already left at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. and the (burning) incident was at 9:30 p.m.,” Abellera said. “We don’t know yet their motive in burning the house.”

The BOI led by police Director Benjamin Magalong said they did not proceed to the area where Marwan’s hut was located due to the reported presence of BIFF gunmen.

Magalong added the burning of the hut would not affect the investigations of the BOI.

Magalong said the BOI would ask for a one-week extension before concluding their investigation.

He said he will submit their finding on the circumstances that resulted in the deaths of 44 SAF commandos by next week.

The BOI earlier vowed to submit today its complete report on the incident, which covers what happened and who is to blame for the deadly operation.

 The BOI has gathered about 400 statements of people involved in the operation, including resigned Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima, who was reportedly in full control of the situation despite serving a six-month suspension over graft charges. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

ABDUL BASIT USMAN ABELLERA BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BARANGAY TUKANALIPAO BARANGAYS INOG BOARD OF INQUIRY DIRECTOR BENJAMIN MAGALONG MAMASAPANO MARWAN PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
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