2 Maute Group leaders killed in Lanao del Sur clashes – Army
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Two leaders of the Maute Group were among those slain by the military in the three-day operation against the bandit group and ISIS sympathizer, the military said.
Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, chief of the 1st Infantry Tabak Division of the Philippine Army, said Monday that among those killed was Abu Imam Bantayaw, one of the leaders of the Maute group based in Piagapo town.
Bautista said another sub-commander, identified only as Mael, was also killed and was buried in Piagapo on Sunday night.
Bautista on Monday visited the encounter site with Brig. Gen. Nixon Fortes, commander of the 103rd Brigade of the Philippine Army.
Bautista said one of those killed, who was “buried in a crater of a 250-pound bomb” was believed to be a foreigner. On Tuesday, in an interview with the wire service, Associated Press, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Año confirmed that a Malaysian and three Indonesians were among the 37 militants so far killed in military operations against the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur. (READ: Malaysian, 3 Indonesians among slain militants in Lanao del Sur )
Aside from bomb-making materials, assorted ammunition, uniforms, three motorcycles and food stuff, government forces had recovered a passport for an Indonesian national.
Fortes has vowed no let up in the operations against the Maute group which has established a new encampment in Piagapo town, just about five kilometers from Camp Pukta of Moro islamic Liberation Front under Abdullah Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo.
Col. Sam Yunque, chief of the First Ranger Battalion, said “a few dead bodies were recovered on the other side of the mountain ridge guarded by military operation troops.”
Meanwhile, the evacuation of civilians continues due to the ongoing clashes. Information from the Lanao del Sur provincial government showed that close to 2,000 residents have left their homes in three towns for safe places in the province.
Quoting data from the Piagapo Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management office, Salma Jayna Tamano, Lanao del Sur information officer, said a total of 1,828 individuals or about 416 families have fled their homes due to the ongoing military offensive in the area.
Based on initial reports on the ground, Tamano said properties were damaged but the local government has not verified this information.
In Balindung town, at least 114 families or 616 individuals left their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire between the military and the Maute Group.
In the municipality of Marantao, 118 families from seven barangay (villages) fled their houses and sought shelter elsewhere. There are at least five persons in a family.
Tamano said the Provincial Social Welfare and Development has been mobilized to respond to the plight of the evacuees as the agency has also been attending to the residents of Wao and Amay Manabilang towns due to the recent earthquake.
The military has pressed on with its combat operations against the group after President Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to neutralize the local terror groups in Mindanao, specifically the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, which both pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State, a jihadist movement based in the Middle East.
The Maute Group, which considered Butig town as their stronghold, was driven out of the area after the AFP’s incessant offensives.
Fortes said government soldiers also occupied the group’s main camp which had fortified bunkers and running trenches in Barangay Gacap in Piagapo town.
Fortes said three government forces were wounded in the fighting. SFM
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