TWO suspected supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and two civilians were killed following clashes with government troops, which the local jihadist militants claimed to have initiated on Friday in Lanao del Sur.
Colonel Roseller Murillo, commander of Marawi city-based 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, identified the civilians as Panundi Sultan and his son, Aiman.
Murillo said the victims were killed by armed men under a certain “Maute group” at about 6 a.m. in Barangay Gata, Buadipuso Buntong town.
Relatives of the victims retaliated, killing one of the attackers, reportedly wearing a headband encrypted with the words “ISIS”.
The official believed that military vehicles were the target of the attack.
Members of the 65th Infantry Battalion rushed to the scene and pursued the gunmen.
While on hot pursuit, the troopers encountered another armed group in Barangay Lilod in Maguing town, a known stronghold of drug syndicates in the province, and killed one of the armed men and wounded another.
The army commander said that the gunmen in Maguing were the same group who staged an attack in Buadipuso Buntong.
An M4 rifle was recovered from the attackers.
Murillo said that local security forces in Lanao del Sur have been already alerted against the armed group suspected to be supporters of ISIS.
Inspired by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), local jihadist militants have claimed responsibility for several attacks in Lanao del Sur including the Friday encounters.
The group – combined members of the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM), its covert unit Ghuraba (or strangers) and some former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – hailed their fallen members “after having done their part on jihad as martyrs.”
They said two of their brothers were killed and several others were wounded in the attack.
The radical militants said their operation on Friday was to punish alleged “drug syndicates” in the province, but were intercepted by the military.
The group also claimed responsibility for the killing of two soldiers in Marawi City last December, who were on a mission in connection with the shooting of an ABS-CBN news team, whom they considered “spy” of the government.
The rebels were resisting and vowed to derail the ongoing peace process in Mindanao between the government and the MILF, saying that “those who joined the people ‘shaking hands’ with the infidels are also their enemy.”
Authorities were closely monitoring the activities of the ISIS-inspired groups in Lanao del Sur and the lone Islamic city of Marawi.
Local residents and officials in Lanao del Sur expressed alarm and urged the Philippine government and the MILF to “establish close coordination” to avoid a repeat of the dreaded Mamasapano massacre in Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
A source of The Manila Times who requested anonymity, said majority of the residents want the peace process to continue.
The MILF on Tuesday released a statement saying that failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would benefit radical groups and consequently lose their influence towards their supporters in the troubled Muslim region.
“The equation in Mindanao will change radically. There will be widespread frustration, which is a fertile reason to recruit people especially the youths to fight the state,” it said.
The statement was in reaction to the reported pledging of allegiance to the ISIS by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan, led by Isnilon Hapilon.