10 soldiers killed in botched government airstrike: military, defense officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 1) — A government airstrike mistakenly killed 10 soldiers and wounded seven other troops in Marawi City on Wednesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.

The AFP first placed the death toll at 11, but spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla on Friday said, "we stand corrected."

He clarified that the other soldier was killed in an encounter with the terrorists shortly after the Philippine Air Force's failed airstrike, which was part of its offensive to flush out remaining Maute fighters.

Two light military aircraft trainer SF260TP jets were positioned to strike, but the second one failed to hit its target and struck instead members of the 55th Infantry Battalion, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a news briefing in Malacanang on Thursday.

"The first plane dropped the ordnance accurately, pero yung pangalawa sumablay. Tumama sa tropa natin… There must be some mistake there," he said.

Padilla said the jets succeeded hitting the first three targets.

"But on the fourth, hindi bumagsak ang bomba sa dapat bagsakan," Padilla said in a separate news briefing at military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The wounded troops were brought to Cagayan De Oro for medical attention and there were no civilian casualties, said Lorenzana, who is also martial law administrator in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, when the Maute group laid siege to Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur province.

Lorenzana said the military may limit its use of airstrikes in Marawi City following the so-called "friendly fire" incident.

"It will be the call of ground commander to do air strikes, pero limitahan muna natin," he said.

Despite the unfortunate setback, Lorenzana expressed confidence that government troops would take hold of Marawi City by its self-imposed deadline of June 2.

"We still have more than one day. I'm sure the troops will do they best they can to accomplish the deadline," he said.

Lorenzana said the military has been fighting some 500 armed men consisting of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf led by their leader Isnilon Hapilon, and local armed groups since last week.

He added the up to 100 fighters are "holed up" in "reinforced buildings" in an area of Marawi City.

President Duterte was saddened upon hearing the news government troops were killed in its own offensive, Lorenzana said.

"Sometimes mistakes happen. All we can do is make sure it will not happen again," he said.

The Board of Inquiry, to be led by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Eduardo Año, will investigate the so-called "friendly fire" incident.

The board will look into the possibility of failure of equipment or failure by the officers involved in the airstrike, Padilla said.

"Hindi natin sinasabi na may pagkakamali ang piloto o may nangyaring iba. 'Yan ang titingnan ng BOI (Board of Inquiry). May nasira ba sa kagamitan? Nag fail ba equipment?" he said.

Lorenzana said they will also investigate if there was miscommunication between the ground commanders and the pilots.

The pilot of the botched airstrike is under administrative control and will not be allowed to fly, said Padilla.

CNN Philippines correspondents Ivy Saunar and AC Nicholls contributed to this report.