MANILA - (3rd UPDATE) Several soldiers pursuing Maute extremists in Marawi City were killed unintentionally in airstrikes, officials reported Wednesday.
Ten soldiers were killed and 8 others were wounded after government forces mistakenly launched the bomb, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
"A group of our own military army men were hit by our own airstrike. We lost 10, [they were] killed and 8 wounded," Lorenzana said in a speech in an event in Mandaluyong.
"It's sad, but sometimes that happens... Maybe the coordination was not properly done so we hit our own people," he added.
The government is still investigating what caused the incident.
"We will come up with a report, hindi pa namin alam e," Lorenzana told reporters.
CONTRADICTING MILITARY INFO
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however reported that 11 soldiers died while 7 others were wounded.
"One of our SF-260 aircraft conducting airstrike that day was successfully hitting its assigned target in its earlier sorties, However, it was unfortunate that the last ordinance round it delivered went wayward for an unknown reason and accidentally hit and caused the lives of our ground forces," AFP spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said in a separate press briefing.
"We are deeply saddened by what transpired. We mourn the loss of 11 of our brave harbingers of peace and the wounding of 7 others."
Among the fatalities were 7 members of the 44th Infantry Battalion and 4 others from the 15 Infantry Battalion, ABS-CBN sources said.
Padilla said the AFP will form a board of inquiry that will investigate whether the accident was caused by equipment failure or human error.
Government forces have been using a combination of ground operations by soldiers and helicopter airstrikes to try to dislodge rebels linked to the Islamic State group, who have occupied parts of Marawi City since May 23.
About 90 percent of Marawi has been retaken by security forces, but the rebels had kept up the fight with rifles and ammunition stolen from a police station, a prison, and an armored police vehicle.
'The AFP will let its ground commander decide whether to suspend airstrikes against the rebels.
"We will not prevent the ground commander from using this means of delivering military power if he decides that it is still required and needed. But we will add appropriate measures to ensure that such an incident is avoided," Padilla said.
The fighting has left dead 120 militants and led to the recovery of 98 high-powered weapons.
-- With reports from Chiara Zambrano, Henry Atuelan and Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News; Reuters