LANAO DEL SUR - The Maute terrorist group has occupied Butig, Lanao del Sur once again, just five months after the military managed to free the town from its clutches.
Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong said the Maute group is occupying Butig's old municipal building while military forces are also in the area.
Reports say the Armed Forces launched a major offensive against the terrorist group, prompting them to take the town hall, national high school and mosque in Butig.
The group also removed the Philippine flag from the town hall and replaced it with that of the Islamic State (ISIS). They hung similar flags on some houses.
Heavy firefight can be heard from all over the town, with at least two soldiers already sustaining minor injuries.
As of posting time, there are reportedly around 200 Maute members in the town. They hail from different parts of Mindanao like Basilan and Maguindanao, most of them returnees to the Islamist group.
All roads in Butig, meanwhile, are closed to the public. Residents have also evacuated to other municipalities, with the biggest number in Lumbayanague, Lanao del Sur.
Adiong said they haven't accounted yet for the total number of evacuees but are set to deliver the first batch of relief goods on Sunday morning.
The military in June captured Camp Darul Iman in Butig, said to be the final stronghold of the Maute terrorist group.
Last October, authorities also arrested three Maute group members who were allegedly behind the deadly September 2 blast in Davao City.
Though no direct link has yet been established with ISIS, the Maute group’s alleged leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute have already pledged allegiance to the terrorist group and even use their name and symbol.
- With reports from Chiara Zambrano and Roxanne Arevalo ABS-CBN News