The Philippine military on Thursday ordered the relief of two ranking officers in connection with last week's killing and beheading of 14 Marines in the southern province of Basilan.
The two officers were being relieved for "command responsibility" and to hasten the ongoing probe on the ambush staged by the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf group and lawless elements, Navy spokesman Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told a press briefing.
Relieved were 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 commander Lt. Col. Felix Almadrones and the unit's operations officer Maj. Nesto Marcelino, the spokesman said.
"They will be available during the course of the investigation, " said Bacordo.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has ordered a thorough investigation last week on the July 10 incident.
The Marine soldiers were on their way back from an unproductive search for a kidnapped Italian priest when they were fired upon by at least 300 men, who the military initially said were Abu Sayyaf and lawless elements.
However, the MILF leadership admitted that its men were behind the attack. They said the Marines entered their area without any coordination and that the soldiers were actually the ones who attacked their members, prompting MILF fighters to fight back.