2 soldiers killed, 5 hurt in landmine blast in Lanao Sur
BUTIG, Lanao del Sur – At least two soldiers were killed while five others were wounded when a landmine exploded here as the military continued its pursuit of the Maute group in this province.
Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone on Thursday that the landmine exploded around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, in Barangay Sandab.
Sandab village is among the areas where remnants of the Maute group have reportedly fled since the military started pounding their positions with howitzers and air strikes on May 24.
“While members of the 65th Infantry Battalion were advancing toward Barangay Sandab to pursue the withdrawing enemy, our soldiers were hit by an explosion,” Murillo said.
He said prior to the explosion, the same troops had recovered an improvised explosive device on their path.
2Lt. Glenn Sumalbag, one of the wounded soldiers, said they were clearing their path following the recovery of the IED when the blast occurred.
“It’s getting dark and we failed to notice it,” he said.
Two of his companions died there and then, Sumalbag added.
Murillo did not name the slain soldiers pending notification of their next of kin.
The Inquirer learned that the bodies of the slain soldiers had already been transported to Iligan City.
Murillo said he could not say when the operation would terminate.
Earlier, Maj. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, Jr., the commanding general of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, who has jurisdiction over this town, told the Inquirer that the situation was fluid and that the operation could still drag on for days.
Barrientos said that the military was determined to finish the Maute group as its existence “has vital impact to the overall security in Mindanao.”
The group, which has reportedly pledged allegiance to the Daesh or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), is also known as part of the emerging Khilafah Islamiya Movement (KIM), which is said to be made up of radicalized Moros.
“As much as we could, we wanted to conclude the military operations but the situation is very fluid and we want to cut and end the terror activities of the Maute group,” Barrientos said.
He said despite the “fluid” situation, the military would like to end the group’s activities before the start of the Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, on June 5 or 6.
“The military fully respects the upcoming religious celebration of Ramadan,” he said.
Barrientos said the military would not think twice about enforcing the law beyond June 5 to prevent the Maute group from launching terror attacks.
So far, the military has reported killing 37 enemies based on the names the ground troops had gathered.
A similar operation launched in February also led to the deaths of several members and leaders of the group, which is being blamed for acts of sabotage on power lines, kidnapping and other terror activities in Lanao del Sur.
Murillo said putting an end to the Maute group — a major security problem for many sectors, including unarmed civilian communities — has become a priority for the military.
According to Murillo, it has an extensive stock of improvised explosive devices and soldiers under the 51st Infantry Battalion have recovered 15 of them.
The fighting has so far displaced 1,200 residents, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) said.
The evacuees were from the villages of Ragayan, Poktan, Bayabao, Sandab, Coloyan and Samer and most of them have been staying with their relatives in Masiu, Lumbayanague and Marawi City. SFM/rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.