MARAWI CITY: Sporadic clashes between security forces and jihadists continue in Lanao del Sur, one of five provinces under the troubled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Various sources said at least two jihadists were killed in clashes that erupted last week, but are still continuing in the town of Butig, where military forces were trying to flush out the group of Abdullah Maute, which is fighting for an Islamic caliphate in the volatile region.
Maute, leader of the so-called Islamic State Ranao, is said to be coddling Indonesian and Malaysian militants in the province.
Military propaganda claimed that more than 20 jihadists were killed in the battle, but troops had not recovered the bodies of those slain in the fighting. The reports cited raw intelligence from villagers.
It was unknown if there were government soldiers killed in the gun battle, but ground troops were being supported by artillery fire and aerial bombardment by aging OV-10 aircraft from the Philippine Air Force.
Gov. Bombit Adiong of Lanao del Sur has not issued any statement on the fighting, but the regional government has begun relief operations in many villages where civilians had evacuated for fear of being caught in the crossfire or mistaken for members or supporters of the jihadist group.
Just this year, jihadists beheaded two brothers – Salvador and Makol Hanobas – who were accused by Maute’s group of being government spies. There were among six sawmill operators seized by gunmen in April in the province. The others – Julieto Hanobas, Alfredo Anoos, Gabriel Permites and Adones Mendez – were freed unharmed following negotiations by their Muslim employer.
Members of the jihadist group Ansarul Khilafah also captured and decapitated another man in Sarangani province after he was accused of being a police spy.