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Philippines admits six soldiers died in 'friendly fire'

Incident occurred in battle with Abu Sayyaf militants

Philippines admits six soldiers died in 'friendly fire'

Philippine soldiers on combat duty. File picture: Tony Magdaraog/ reporter, Manila

July 11, 2014

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The Philippine military announced on Friday  that six soldiers who died in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf terror group last month were hit by friendly fire.

Investigators established that an artillery round killed the six men and wounded 13 others in Patikul town, Sulu province, on June 19.

"Although they died from friendly fire, it does not diminish their acts or courage. They are still part of operations against terrorists and we consider them heroes," said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

The military had earlier said the fighting left seven soldiers dead, six of them killed by Abu Sayyaf mortar shells. At least 24 other soldiers were wounded, the original military report said.

Armed forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista has ordered another investigation into the incident. 

He said he wants to "find out what we do and the appropriate actions that we need to take, to address the issue [of friendly fire]." He described the purported death of the six soldiers an "unfortunate incident".

"Nobody wants that, but it happens," the military chief said. "As you all know, even among the best armies in the world," he added.

Bautista said the military will be conscious of the incident and learn from it so it does not happen again.

"War is a very complex matter and there are fogs of war [so] that we really cannot predict what will happen and definitely we will try to address this issue," he said.

The Philippine military has been battling the Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network, since the 1990s.

The group was blamed for the 2004 bombing of a ferry that left more than 100 dead. It is also accused of abductions of foreign missionaries and tourists, and the beheadings of kidnap victims.

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