THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared on Thursday the municipality of Butig in Lanao del Sur as “100-percent cleared” of Maute Group terrorists as it prepared for the town’s turnover to the local government to facilitate the return of displaced residents.
“The main areas, the built-up areas of Butig municipality are now clear, paving the way for its turnover to the local government so that they can now allow some of the residents who still stay there to go back to their homes,” said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman.
The terrorist Maute Group occupied the town on Friday. The military claimed to have killed 61 jihadists and wounded 12 others during the six-day military offensive. Thirty-five soldiers were wounded on the government side.
Padilla however said the military was not taking any chances and would continue to pursue the terrorists. Operations will focus on the outskirts of Butig, he said.
“The military offensive operations will continue in areas we need to clear, to prevent the remaining elements of this group from coming back,” he said.
Military and police personnel will be deployed to secure the town, and there are suggestions to put up a military base or camp there, the AFP spokesman said.
Padilla rejected claims by militant groups that the bombing of the convoy of the advance party of President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, which resulted in the wounding of seven members of the Presidential Security Group and two other soldiers, was “stage-managed.”
He insisted that the roadside bombing was the handiwork of the Maute Group in an attempt to prevent the entry of reinforcements and relief goods intended for Butig residents.
In Davao City, Duterte scored “people from Manila” for claiming that the government was laying the groundwork to declare martial law.
Duterte said the Maute Group’s terror activities must end as its cause was illegitimate.
“Fifty lang kayo tapos maglaban kayo ng armed forces. Kalokohan [There are only 50 of you and you will fight the armed forces. That’s foolish],” the President said.
“Just go to the Middle East. Choose your plane and I will send you there. Why do you have to disturb the community?” he added.