SAF 44: Mamasapano Clash

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On this day (January 25), 6 years ago (2015). Members of the PNP's Special Action Force were deployed to arrest or kill a high-ranking terrorist linked to extremist groups. Rebels were alarmed by the gunshots as they take down the retreating commandos. It is a national day of remembrance as we commemorate the fallen 44.

Zuikifli "Marwan" Abdhir

It was called Oplan Exodus. The Green Berets and the Federal Bureau of Investigation allegedly joined the operation. Their objective? To capture or execute a high-ranking terrorist: Zuikifli "Marwan" Abdhir.

Abdhir was one of FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists, the agency placed a bounty of US$5 million leading to his capture. A bomb-maker responsible for the Bali bombings of 2002, and has connections with other extremist groups: the Kumupulan Mujahidin Malaysia, and Jemaah Islamiyah. During the Papal Visit of Pope Francis, there were reports by the intelligence community that there were plans to assassinate the Pope by placing a bomb at the papal convoy of January 18. The report exists but they cannot confirm if it is true.

What happened?

January 25, 2015, 2:30 am. SAF operators entered Tukanalipao Bridge, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. 3 companies were deployed, consisting of the 55th SAF Company serves as the blocking force, while the 84th SAF Company were tasked to capture or kill Marwan. The other company of 300 SAF troops as backup. 30 minutes later, they entered Brgy. Pidsandawan. At 4:15 am, the 84th spots on the hut where Abdhir is hiding. The bomb-maker fires his gun, but the operators returned fire. However, the gunshot alarmed the insurgents around the area. The operators planned to take his body, but it will be a waste of time instead, they took a photo, cut off one of his fingers, and left his body there. 15 minutes later, the 55th spots a group of men less a hundred meters away as both sides wait for sunrise before firing. SAF Director Getulio Napeñas received a message from a commander of the 61D Battalion, that they were pinned down and later killed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

44 SAF operators and 23 rebels (18 MILF and 5 BIFF) were dead. There were reports that innocent civilians, 7 were killed and 3 others were injured during the clash.

The Aftermath? Was it a massacre or misencounter?

Families of the victims mourned their loved ones as they shout for justice, officers & military personnel wore black armbands in sympathy with their fallen brothers. Videos were circulating over the internet at the events of the Mamasapano clash but were taken down. Others downloaded and sold the video in DVD format. As of today, the videos are still on YouTube, mostly documentaries and archived statements of the survivors.

January 28, 2015. Former Pres. Benigno Aquino III publicly addressed the nation with the details of the incident, he declared January 30 as a national day of mourning of the fallen 44. Aquino admitted there was a "lack of coordination" among government forces. The PNP relieved SAF Director Getulio Napeñas replacing Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño. The next day (January 29, 2015), SAF 44 arrived with honors, but the president chooses to attend a car plant launch instead of honoring the fallen commandos. #NasaanAngPangulo? (Where is the President?) was trending around the nation angered by the Filipinos, even worldwide. This was even used again as they question the whereabouts of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during the super typhoons entered last year of November. The Senate called it a "massacre" after reviewing the videos, and other images due to the nature of how the commandos were killed, while Loretta Rosales of the Commission of Human Rights stated and insists that it was a "misencounter". For me, it was a massacre, the operation was successful since they tried to capture Marwan but he was eventually killed by the operators, and took months for official confirmation if they gunned down the bomb-maker.

Justice for the Fallen 44, followed by 44 seconds of silence after kick-off

February 4, 2015. The FBI confirms that the finger and the photo taken by SAF operators was indeed Zuikifli Abdhir based on a matching DNA test, but it needs absolute identification. 2 months later (April 1, 2015), the FBI officially confirms his death. On February 8, 2015, during the United Football League 2015 season, that was the match between Kaya FC & Army FC, I and the rest of my brothers in Ultras Kaya dedicate 44 seconds of silence after kick-off as a tribute to the fallen 44.

As we demand justice and 3 months later (September 22, 2015), the National Bureau of Investigation filed criminal charges against 90 individuals, 26 members of the MILF, 12 from the BIFF, and 52 others from various rebel groups. Abdul Basit Usman, another target of the operation who escaped the clash, was killed by one of his bodyguards.

2 years later, President Rodrigo Duterte declared January 25 every year as a national day of remembrance for the fallen 44. Purisima & Napeñas were filed criminal charges. Duterte created a new commission to re-investigate the clash and honor more medals to the fallen commandos.

Instructor Zero condoles to the fallen commandos and after the Battle of Marawi. As he collaborates with Funker Tactical and shares his knowledge with our operators. The story of the SAF 44 was featured on our local networks from documentaries to real-life drama series. It was also featured in the action movie London has Fallen as the antagonist of the film had connections with the incident.

The fallen SAF 44 shocked the whole nation and a grim reminder of the situation in Maguindanao. As families continue to fight for justice, so do the tensions between the government and rebel insurgents.

Sources:

Lead Image from https://interaksyon.philstar.com/entertainment/2018/01/25/117841/saf-44-documentary-reveals-more-about-mamasapano-clash/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30978014

https://www.rappler.com/nation/timeline-mamasapano-clash

https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/remembering-fallen44-of-the-special-action-forces-a1729-20190128-lfrm3

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