Philippine Soldier and 5 Suspected Islamic State Militants Killed in Lanao del Sur

Philippine Soldier and 5 Suspected Islamic State Militants Killed in Lanao del Sur.lelemuku.com.jpg
A mannequin dressed as a sniper is placed beside a sign for the Islamic State-aligned militant Maute Group near a military checkpoint at an abandoned neighborhood during an ongoing clean-up of Marawi city in southern Philippines, Oct. 19, 2017. - (AP) 
MANILA, LELEMUKU.COM - Five suspected pro-Islamic State militants and a soldier were killed in a gunbattle when government forces stormed the extremists’ jungle camp in the southern Philippines, the military said Friday.

The clash that took place on Thursday outside the remote town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province was the deadliest during the holy month of Ramadan involving suspected Islamic militants. Ramadan in the Philippines ends on Sunday evening.

“Five members of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group were killed,” said Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo II, commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, adding that a soldier was killed and a second was injured during the intense ground and air attacks.

“Daulah Islamiyah” means “Islamic State” in the local language. The group has members from several Filipino militant factions including the Maute Group fighting out of Lanao.

Cuerpo said the troops launched the operation following reports from residents weeks ago about the presence of armed men in the mountainous part of the village of Ragayan. Those complaints corroborated intelligence reports about an alleged terror group stockpiling construction materials and food supplies in the area.

“The encounter is proof that the terrorists are out to disrupt the peace whenever they are capable,” Cuerpo told reporters.

“It is for this reason that the Army is aggressive in its counter-terrorism operations. We will never let them succeed. Despite the unfortunate loss of one of our brothers-in-arms, we will never abandon the fight against terrorists wherever they may be.”

In May 2017, Maute group leaders and others launched the siege of Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur, joined by militants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The attack lasted five months and as many as 1,200 militants, troops, and civilians were killed before the military, supported by foreign intelligence, regained control of the southern Philippine city.

Five years later, some areas of Marawi continue to remain inaccessible because of unexploded ordnance that has yet to be removed. Thousands of citizens remain in transitional centers.

Four-hour clash

Local battalion commander Lt. Col. Romulus Rabara, who led the assault on Thursday, said about 40 members of the Maute Group were present in the area, precipitating a four-hour gunbattle.

Troops attacked with rounds of heavy artillery, Rabara said Friday, adding that Air Force attack helicopters provided air support to the ground offensive.

Rabara told reporters he believed other enemy fighters could have been injured, based on radio monitoring on the ground.

After the clash, troops recovered four high-powered firearms, including a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, ammunition, and improvised landmine and other materials.

Since January across the southern Philippines, troops have killed nearly 70 Daulah Islamiyah militants, 109 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and 49 Abu Sayyaf extremists, according to military records.

BIFF is a breakaway of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a former separatist group that signed a peace deal with the government and heads a transitional government in a Muslim autonomous region in the south. Abu Sayyaf is known for kidnappings, beheadings and bomb attacks. One of its factions is allied with the Islamic State.

A large Muslim minority lives in the southern part of the Philippines, Asia’s only predominantly Catholic nation. (Jeoffrey Maitem | BenarNews )

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