11 suspected local terrorists killed in Lanao del Sur clash
At least 11 suspected members of a local terrorist group were killed in a clash with government forces in Lanao del Sur, officials said on Sunday.
In a radio interview, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla confirmed that aside from 11 slain members of Maute Group, five were also wounded during Sunday morning encounter in Barangay Bayabao Poblacion, Butig town.
The encounter occurred after the members of the Maute Group, bringing with them a flag of international terror Islamic State of Syrian and Iraq (ISIS), occupied an abandoned portion of Butig municipal hall on Saturday.
According to Padilla, the waving of ISIS flag in town did not mean that the group already occupied the area.
“It’s only propaganda and it doesn’t show or mean that they have already taken over the place,” he said, noting that the group has around 50 to 100 members.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar, in a separate statement, said it was not surprising that Maute Group has the ISIS flag.
"The Maute Group has long been professing allegiance to ISIS, so the reported raising of the ISIS flag does not come as a surprise. The Maute Group continues to court ISIS," he said.
Andanar assured that the military would not allow the skirmishes to spread in other places.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to frustrate the sinister objectives of the Maute Group and government will prevent the situation from escalating to other areas," he said.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said President Rodrigo Duterte is fully aware of the challenges on the ground and he is taking bold steps to deal with the situation.
He added that the Maute group is still a developing situation in Butig.
To prevent the clashes from spreading, Dureza said the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front have already activated the ceasefire and ad hoc joint action group (AHJAG).
“It may be good for everyone to know that the ceasefire and ad hoc joint action group which are mechanisms of the Bangsamoro peace process are now operational to deal with the ground situation,” he said.
The AHJAG is the cooperative mechanism between the government and the MILF that responds to criminality and terrorism in areas with MILF presence.
“Affected evacuees are being assisted by the MILF to support government’s effort to assist those adversely affected by the on-going stand-off,” he said.
Last Saturday, two soldiers were wounded after they encountered more or less 15 members of the Maute Brothers. Ella Dionisio/DMS