Many flee, soldier hurt as Army troops clash with Abus, Maute in Marawi
Update (First posted at 5:52 p.m.)
ILIGAN CITY – Government security forces clashed on Tuesday, with suspected local terrorists – including a group led by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon – in Marawi City.
The firefight, which started around 2 p.m., had dragged for hours, triggering a mass evacuation, an official said.
One soldier was reported injured as the clashes dragged, Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson of the Army ‘s 1st Infantry Division, said.
He said elements of 103rd brigade went to Barangay Basak Malutlut following reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Ispilon Hapilon and Maute Group were sighted in the area.
“Our troops were met by bullets from the Maute group, triggering a fierce firefight,” Herrera said.
Colonel Herrera said the clash, which was raging as of 5 p.m., started when government security forces raided an apartment in Barangay Basak Malutlut in Marawi.
The apartment was adjacent to the headquarters of the Lanao del Sur police and was reportedly used by Hapilon and several Maute group members as a rendezvous.
“The military operation focused on the alleged presence of Isnilon Hapilon with 15 fully armed Maute group members, who occupied an apartment as their rendezvous in Marawi City,” Herrera said.
He said the firefight dragged and developed into pockets of clashes when Maute group symphatizers came in from nearby areas.
A Marawi City local told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that the firefight was raging as of 5 p.m.
He said it was fortunate that the clash took place when a large pre-Ramadan gathering of Muslims had ended in Marawi City.
The Ramadan could start on Friday or Saturday, depending on the sighting of the moon.
“People would have gotten caught in the crossfire if it happened at the height of the gathering,” he said.
Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, the Lanao del Sur police director, said clashes also took place in Barangay Caloocan and in other areas of Marawi City.
Nantes said two bomber planes took turns in pounding the positions of the militants starting 3:30 p.m.
“We can hear automatic gunshots from our current location,” he told the INQUIRER by phone.
Sporadic gun fire could also be heard in downtown Marawi City, said Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the 24-seat Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Adiong said a large number of residents had already fled their homes.
Nantes said police personnel – backed by armored personnel carriers, were also battling Maute Group members, who wore khaki uniforms and black masks along the streets leading to the Amai PakPak provincial hospital.
At one point during the clashes, a Maute Group member put up an ISIS flag in the triangle fronting the hospital
“Maute group members mingle with civilians, it’s scary,” posted Macatoon Sam, a resident of Marawi City.
She said Maute Group members also stood in the middle of the road as if waiting for soldiers to come as people sought cover from rains, and bullets too.
“Let’s pray for Marawi, let’s pray for the people,” another resident, Layok Macatoono, posted in his social media account. SFM/rga
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