1,000 families flee clashes in Lanao del Sur
ILIGAN CITY, Lanao del Norte, Philippines — Over a thousand families were displaced by the fighting in Maguing town, Lanao del Sur between government troops and local militants affiliated with the terrorist network Islamic State (IS) on Tuesday.
A situation report from the Maguing municipal disaster risk reduction and management office (MDRRMO) showed that up to 1,015 families from nine villages in the town left their homes to escape the clashes.
As of Wednesday, the evacuees were mostly staying with their relatives in nearby towns.
On Tuesday, at the height of the clashes, the MDRRMO advised residents in Barangay Ilalag, the scene of fighting, to leave their homes and temporarily take shelter in the town center. Vehicles were put on standby to ferry the fleeing residents.
Mayor Fahad Molok had ordered the dispatch of emergency food assistance for evacuees who were still waiting for the situation to calm down before returning to their homes.
The MDRRMO report indicated that the four villages have been deserted — 118 families coming from Camalig, 302 from Balintao, 60 from Ilalag, and 180 from Kianodan.
The MDRRMO also reported that houses in Rangguyan village, which was closest to the IS lair bombed by Philippine Air Force planes, were damaged. It said members of a local family were injured, with a child hit by splinters in the face and feet.
Speaking on Wednesday through dwDD, a radio station run by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Brig. Gen. Jose Maria Cuerpo II, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, said government troops had occupied the IS lair after a 10-hour gunfight with militants.
Cuerpo said the operation was a “targeted strike” against at least 60 Daulah Islamiyah (DI) members from Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces who were believed to be planning and training for sabotage operations in time for Ramadan and the May 9 elections.
The group, led by Faharudin Hadji Satar alias Abu Zacharia, had been involved in the bombing of power pylons of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines and is staying in an area that used to be frequented by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
Last year, Satar’s forces, estimated to be about 20, were seen in Lanao del Sur’s eastern villages, toward its boundary with Lanao del Norte province.
Cuerpo said their transfer to the province’s western side and the pooling of forces with militants from Maguindanao were new developments in the activities of the remnants of IS forces that laid siege to Marawi City in 2017.
Cuerpo said the IS lair in Maguing was located about a kilometer away from a community of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Three militants and a soldier, identified as Private Clint Rey Armada, were killed in the battle that broke out at 6 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. Four soldiers were also wounded.
Prior to the ground assault, Cuerpo called for a bombing run to soften the position of the IS militants.
In consultation with Maguing officials and local MILF leaders, Cuerpo called for a ceasefire by 6 p.m. on Tuesday to allow residents to safely evacuate.
Recovered from the clash site were three machine guns, four rifles, three rocket-propelled grenades, 22 improvised explosive devices, assorted bullets and magazines, several antipersonnel mines and bomb components, IS flags and documents, and personal belongings
Cuerpo said their pursuit operations continued on Wednesday.
—WITH A REPORT FROM RYAN D. ROSAURO
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