Soldiers in plane crash meant to reinforce Sulu troops vs Abu Sayyaf

Soldiers in plane crash meant to reinforce Sulu troops vs Abu Sayyaf
In this handout photo taken on July 4, 2021 and received from the Philippine military Joint Task Force-Sulu (JTF-Sulu), smoke billows from the wreckage of a Philippine Airforce C-130 transport plane after it crashed near the airport in Jolo town, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao.
Handout / Joint Task Force-Sulu / AFP

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:16 p.m.) — The nearly 100 soldiers aboard the Air Force C-130 plane that crashed in Jolo, Sulu were meant to augment forces going after the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Monday.

Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo confirmed in an interview with CNN Philippines’ "The Source" that the soldiers were from Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental who went through training in Cagayan de Oro. They were to join the Jolo-headquartered 11th Infantry Division.

"We know that we have continuing requirements of replenishment and refurbishment our personnel and these fatalities are part of the group that this supposed to upgrade the fill up of our personnel at the 11th Infantry Division that is operating in Jolo, Sulu that is after the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf group in the area," he said partly in Filipino.

The 11th Infantry Division, under the military’s Western Mindanao Command, was activated in December 2018. A Philippine News Agency report said this division will be composed of "basic maneuver elements, combat support and service support components."

In a separate interview with DZMM Teleradyo, Arevalo said the soldiers aboard the C-130 were privates first class, an early-career rank for enlisted personnel.

Operations vs ASG to continue

In a press conference streamed by state-run PTV4, Arevalo stressed that while the incident prevented the new troops to join the 11th IED, it will not hamper their operations.

“It may have some impact in combat humanitarian operations, but we have contingency measures in place. Our commanders are trained to plan for all contingencies that may [happen],” he added.

Arevalo continued: “We are warning the enemies of the State for them not to be complacent, even if this setback happened to us, we are going to pursue our relentless operations to finish threat of Abu Sayyaf group in that part side of country.”

Latest update from the AFP put fatalities at 50. The crash left 47 military personnel and three civilians on the ground dead, Arevalo added. There were also 49 soldiers and four civilians injured, he also said.

The plane with 96 soldiers and crew members crashed in Patikul and burst into flames after it missed the runway while trying to land.

C-130 was airworthy, crew was seasoned

C-130s have been the workhorses of the Philippine Air Force for decades. The aircraft have been used to transport troops and supplies, and to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Arevalo stressed that the C-130 that crashed was airworthy and its pilots and crew are “seasoned and experienced to fly this aircraft.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a tweet on Sunday that the department has ordered a “full investigation to get to the bottom of the C-130 incident, as soon as the rescue and recovery operation is completed.”

Lorenzana and Arevalo, in separate statements, asked the public for prayers for the bereaved of the soldiers and civilians who died in the incident. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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