A Filipino military unit has disputed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that one of 100 sniper rifles donated by China took out the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) “emir” in Southeast Asia.
While addressing Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, Duterte reportedly praised Beijing’s alleged support for the operation that led to the killing of Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Philippine-based ISIS wing in Southeast Asia.
“I would like to officially inform you, Ambassador Zhao, that the rifle that killed Hapilon was a sniper rifle made in China,” declared the Filipino president on Thursday, according to Reuters.
However, the Philippine Army Scout Rangers unit that carried out the operation that killed the leaders of the nation’s two ISIS affiliates, Hapilon of Abu Sayyaf and Omar Maute of the Maute group, offered a different account of the offensive.
Reuters reports “a blow-by-blow” description of the event posted on the Facebook page of a member of the ranger unit revealed that “the smoking gun that took out the region’s most feared insurgent” was not a Chinese sniper rifle.
The post “tells of how the 8th Scout Ranger Company was engaging militants and was not aware the rebel commanders were among those they killed, until fleeing hostages told them,” explained Reuters, adding, “The soldiers operating at night used thermal imaging on an armored vehicle, and the shot that killed Hapilon came from a gun mounted on top of it, according to the account. No mention was made of Chinese weapons or snipers.”
Moreover, two Filipino soldiers reportedly told CNN Philippines the mounted weapon was operated by remote control.
Reuters learned that the “the fixed weapons are 50-calibre machine guns” and the troops used guns made by the United States, China, and others countries during the operation.
The Southeast Asia ISIS branch has been terrorizing the Philippine’s Marawi City for months, prompting a response from the country’s military.
Filipino officials recently confirmed the deaths of the two ISIS-linked leaders Hapilon and Maute in Marawi City, the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur on the Philippine island of Mindanao.
Despite the Philippines dispute with China over territory in the South China Sea, Duterte has lauded his ties to Beijing, at times threatening to abandon his relationship with the United States for Russia and China.