Hero-soldier killed by ‘friendly fire’

By Christine Avendaño
Last updated 05:56am (Mla time) 07/17/2007

MANILA, Philippines — It was a mock ambush training that went horribly wrong for this elite Army soldier who was responsible for killing Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Solaiman early this year.


Sgt. Raul Suacillo, of the Army’s 5th Special Forces Company, was killed on July 3 when a bullet fired at him during training at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija turned out to be a live round.


The military last week gave 34-year-old Suacillo a “hero’s burial” at the Libingan ng Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, with his wife and parents present.


Army Special Forces chief Brig. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said on Monday a formal investigation of the incident was being conducted by the Army Inspector General.


An Army corporal who took part in the training admitted firing at Suacillo without realizing the bullets he was using were live, not blanks.


According to Ortiz, Suacillo had taken part in a practical exercise dealing with a “hasty ambush” together with 11 members of the tactical team.


During the exercise held in the camp’s reservation area, Suacillo, playing an “aggressor,” was “hit” and he fell.


Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, quoting Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., operations officer of the Special Forces Regiment, said Suacillo was still able to talk, telling his colleagues they shouldn’t have used live ammunition.


“Huwag kayong gagamit ng live (Don’t use ‘live’),” Suacillo said.


Seeing blood oozing out of Suacillo, the training was stopped and he was rushed to the camp hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.


“(It turned out Suacillo) was fatally hit by an M-16 bullet that went through his right arm, then penetrated his heart before it got stuck and embedded inside his body,” Ortiz said.


Ortiz said Cpl. Edgar Caban “admitted the live bullet came from him.”


“(Caban) afterwards explained that he accidentally inserted a magazine with live bullets that was issued to them before they jumped off for the exercise,” Ortiz said.


Torres said the teams that participated in the exercise were issued both blank and live ammunition. The live rounds were issued in case they would be needed at the training site.


He said what happened was an “unfortunate accident,” adding that Suacillo was a well-liked soldier.


Caban is detained at the Fort Magsaysay stockade.


Suacillo was part of the Special Forces team that attacked the Abu Sayyaf camp on Mount Dajo in Talipao town, Sulu province, on Jan. 16.


He shot Solaiman who was unaware Army soldiers had entered his camp.


Solaiman, who carried a $5-million bounty offered by the United States, was wanted for the SuperFerry bombing in 2003 and the kidnapping of foreigners from a Palawan resort in 2001.


For the deed, Suacillo was awarded an interim Gold Cross Medal, the third highest combat award.


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