COTABATO CITY, Philippines: Ranking local police officials and United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents planned a secret operation to arrest notorious international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan in 2014, a source who declined to be identified told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
He claimed a meeting was held at the headquarters of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Parang, Maguindanao, sometime in September 2014.
The source claimed the Malaysian-born Marwan was on Washington's list of priority terrorists, with a bounty of US$5mil (RM18.1mil) for his capture.
The source, a former ranking police official in Central Mindanao, claimed that he attended the meeting where FBI agents shared an intelligence report on the exact whereabouts of Marwan.
The source said the Americans were certain their intelligence data was accurate as it was provided by a mole from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"They were paid cash in exchange for the information," the source said.
The source said the FBI agents validated the information relayed to them by their mole through the use of "drones and global positioning systems."
"We could even see the hideout of their target," he said.
During the meeting, it was decided that those involved in the operation would not share information with any other government agencies "to prevent a leak of the plan."
"They would only coordinate with other government troops posted along the highway on their way to their mission," he added.
However, the source said the glaring failure on the part of the policemen that went to Barangay Tukanalipao, a known controlled village of the MILF in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, was that they had no back-up hardware and reinforcement.
Capt Joanne Petinglay, spokesperson of the military's sixth Infantry Division, admitted that US forces "come and go."
"They are based in Manila and Zamboanga. We don't have US troops (based) here (in Maguindanao)," she said.
As to the alleged involvement of US troops in the operation, Petinglay said she was not aware of it.
She said what she knew was that US forces indeed help extract the injured SAF personnel through the use of a helicopter.
In Davao City, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Southern Mindanao said it wanted to know the role of the US military in the police operation.
Bayan spokesperson Sheena Duazo said the Mamasapano operation that led to the bloodshed was possibly a joint covert operation with the United States.
"The unfortunate members of the police operation seem to be victims of the latest United States-directed anti-terror operation that is sanctioned by President Aquino's government," she said.
"We want to know what really happened, and why US soldiers are seen with the dead bodies of the PNP-SAF (Philippine National Police - Special Action Force)?" Duazo asked.
Duazo said the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement have ushered in "increasing US military intervention in the Philippines."
"The 6,000 or so US troops currently deployed in Mindanao may be doing more things on the island that the Filipino public have no knowledge of. President Aquino's government owes the public (an explanation)," she added. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN