CLOSE to a dozen terrorists mostly from the Maute group were killed over the weekend after government troops launched air strikes and shelled rebel positions near the Butig municipal hall starting Saturday morning. Fighting continued Sunday.
Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said signal intelligence sources indicated that 11 Maute rebels were killed in a day-long fierce fighting with government troops on the periphery of Butig town.
Two Army soldiers were also wounded in the running gun battle.
Some 200 members of the Maute group—which staged a deadly bomb attack on a Davao night market in September—splintered into smaller groups after seeking shelter in the municipal hall, a military source said.
“There were still about 30 rebels remaining in different areas, but they have already left the old building,” a source added.
Reporters in Butig said the military had obtained photographs of the Maute group flying the black IS flag over the occupied building.
They said they themselves were not close enough to verify this.
Arevalo said this action was expected.
“They have long been professing allegiance to the foreign terror group. This is still part of the Maute group’s agenda in courting support and encouraging similar-minded individuals to support ISIS,” he said in a statement, referring to another acronym for IS.
The Maute group is one of several armed Islamist organizations in Mindanao which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.
In past fighting with troops, the group’s members were seen carrying black IS flags and bandannas bearing the jihadists’ insignia were found in their base, the military said.
Three members of the Maute group were arrested last month, accused of the September bombing that left 15 people dead in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, Davao City.
Residents of Butig, which has a population of 17,000, fled after the old town hall was occupied.
Government forces captured a Maute training camp in the town in June after a 10-day gun battle that left four soldiers and dozens of militants dead, according to an army account.
The Mautes, once described by the military as a small-time extortion gang, attacked a remote army outpost in Butig in February, triggering a week of fighting that the military said left six soldiers and 12 militants dead.
The group also beheaded two employees of a local sawmill in April, the military has said.
Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the military is trying to prevent the fighting from spilling to other areas.
In Campa Aguinaldo, Arevalo denied previous statements that the military had already decimated the terrorist group in previous operations. With AFP
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