2 soldiers, 3 others killed in clash with ‘foreign, local terror suspects’ – Army
ILIGAN CITY – At least two soldiers and three others were killed when government troops belonging to the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion clashed with a group of what military officials described as a “foreign and local terrorist organization” in Butig, Lanao del Sur since February 20.
As of Monday, the clash was continuing, Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Marawi City, said.
Murillo said the clash started when the armed men harassed elements of the 51st IB, who were manning a patrol base in Barangay Bayabao.
“There was a lull in the firefight but early dawn of February 21, the firefight resumed and continued to this day. Government blocking forces also engaged the FLTO (foreign and local terrorist organization) led by the Maute brothers,” Murillo said.
He did not elaborate how the military had established that the Maute brothers belong to a terror group with foreign ties.
But he said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been assisting the military in securing civilians in the area by bringing them to safer areas.
Col. Noli Samarita, Murillo’s deputy, said more armored tanks and troops had been sent to Butig while the military also used two MG 520s in tracking down the armed men and in conducting air strikes against them.
“The MILF continues to assist civilians so they will not be caught in the crossfire during the operation,” Samarita said.
Samarita estimated the armed group’s strength at about 300.
In Maguindanao, the military said the operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was also continuing in the so-called “SPMS box” or the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Piang), Mamasapano and Salibo.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers have already entered the perimeter of the BIFF bailiwick in Barangay Tee – which was rigged with several booby traps.
Petinglay said to date, three soldiers had already been killed since the fighting began on Feb. 5 after the BIFF torched construction equipment working on flood control dredging project in Barangay Butalo. At least 17 other soldiers were slightly wounded, including an Army captain.
Petinglay, citing information from local residents, said more than 30 BIFF had been killed both in air and ground offensives but admitted it was being validated as no bodies of slain bandits had been recovered.
As of Sunday, at least 2,500 families had already evacuated from the conflict area. (With a report from Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao) SFM
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