This is from the International Herald Tribune. There is another article on the situation in Reuters but not as informative. Many people distrust the AFP and this would be especially true in Muslim areas. The early reports certainly do not look that good. This is an area where US troops are active supposedly limited to humanitarian and training activities. The US presence is also very much resented not just in the Muslim area but by many throughout the Philippines who see the country as too much under the influence of the U.S. However, the U.S. has close links to the AFP in the war on terror.
Philippine president orders investigation into killings of civilians by soldiers
By Carlos H. Conde
Sunday, February 10, 2008
MANILA: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines has ordered an investigation into the killings last week of seven civilians and an off-duty soldier by Philippine military personnel in the southern province of Sulu.
"The instruction of the president is to have a credible investigation," Gilberto Teodoro, the defense secretary, told reporters Saturday. He also disclosed that at least 50 of the soldiers had been restricted to barracks pending the completion of the investigation.
The Philippine military said last week that its soldiers had encountered a group of militants from the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in the village of Ipil, in Sulu, early Feb. 4. In the ensuing firefight, it said, three terrorists, two soldiers, seven civilians and one off-duty soldier were killed. Four of those killed were children and other minors, Sulu officials said.
Survivors and relatives of the dead, however, said the victims had been deliberately killed. One survivor, Rawina Wahid, widow of the off-duty soldier, told Teodoro in a meeting last week that soldiers had tied her husband's hands behind his back and shot him while he was facedown on the ground.
She said the soldiers had allowed her to accompany the body of her husband, and those of the other people killed, on a boat to Jolo town, and claimed to have seen American as well as Philippine soldiers on the boat just before she was blindfolded. That allegation has led to outraged condemnations from Muslim and leftist groups that oppose the U.S. military presence in the southern Philippines.
Rebecca Thompson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy here, said American soldiers do not take part in combat operations in the Philippines. "They are here at the invitation of the Philippine government to share information and work with the Armed Forces of the Philippines on humanitarian and civic projects that benefit the people and benefit the local community," The Associated Press quoted her as saying.
Two units took part in the Ipil raid: the army's Light Reaction Company and the navy's Special Warfare Group. Both units have received training and logistical and intelligence assistance from the U.S. military.
U.S. military personnel have been stationed in the southern Philippines, where Islamist extremist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah operate, since 2002.
Abdusakur Tan, the governor of Sulu, said last week that his office was preparing to file charges against the Philippine military.
The Commission on Human Rights, which sent a team to the island last week, said its initial investigation had found that most of the civilian victims had been killed while sleeping and that there were no signs of an exchange of gunfire.