Despite PNoy denial, US conducted drone strikes in the Philippines
The July 6, 2012 New York Times article by Mark Mazzetti called The Drone Zone claims that the United States has conducted at least one drone strike in Mindanao.
According to the article, in 2006 an American Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, fired a “barrage of Hellfire missiles” in the “jungles of the Philippines”. The drone strike was an attempt to kill Indonesian Bali-bomber Umar Patek.
The strike failed to kill Patek. He was recently convicted by an Indonesian court to 20 years for his role in the Bali Bombings.
The New York Times article said that the drone strike was reported as a “Philippine military operation”.
Despite this, in a March 2012 Agence France-Presse interview, President Benigno Aquino III said the Philippines is only allowing US drones to conduct reconnaissance flights over Philippine territory. Strikes from the unmanned planes are banned.
When asked whether the Philippines would allow, or had allowed, US drones to drop bombs, Aquino said that would violate a ban on the American forces from participating in combat operations.
According to the AFP report, hundreds of American troops have been helping to contain an Islamic militant threat for a decade.
"They are here as advisers. They are here as trainers. They cannot participate in combat operations," said Aquino.
Aquino was elected to the presidency in 2010. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president and commander-in-chief in 2006.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos on Sunday emphatically denied that there was any truth to the New York Times story.
“That’s against the law. The United States does not participate in military operations here in the Philippines,” said Burgos.
Burgos explained that US forces only share “information, training” and nothing else.
The Dr. Abu air strike
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan believes that the 2006 drone strike reported by the New York Times may have not been the only occasion in which the US conducted such a strike in the Philippines.
Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes Jr. on Sunday voiced his suspicion in a telephone interview to GMA News Online that the February 2012 air strike that killed Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir, and Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail, alias Dr. Abu, was actually a drone attack.
Dr. Abu was said to be involved in the 2001 Dos Palmas and Sipadan, Malaysia kidnapping incidents.
Reyes said that the US and Philippine governments claimed that the air strike was conducted with an American guided “smartbomb” dropped from a Philippine plane.
“The Philippine Air Force is not capable of this kind of pinpoint air strike. The strike was done at 2 a.m.,” said Reyes. “Imagine the visibility at that hour.”
Reyes added that while the Philippine government must deal decisively with suspected terrorists, it is unacceptable to allow a foreign power to conduct combat operations in the country.
“Just remember the countless civilians that have died in Pakistan and Afghanistan because of these drone strikes conducted by the US,” he added. — DVM/LBG/HS, GMA News
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