MANILA - The Philippine military is verifying reports that 5 members of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group were killed in a firefight in the town of Tubaran, Lanao del Sur.
The clash erupted Sunday with state forces using airstrikes in the town displacing thousands of residents in the area. The target of the military operation was Maute leader Abu Dar.
"There are reports indicating that 5 members of the Maute-ISIS group led by Owayda Benito Marohombsar alias Abu Dar, have been killed. The military is still verifying these reports," said Major General Roseller Murillo, commander of the 1st Infantry Division.
Murillo said state troops on the ground are making sure that the hostilities are confined only within the mountainous areas of Tubaran and Pagayawan towns in Lanao del Sur.
Abu Dar has been tagged as one of those who led the terrorists in the 5-month siege in Marawi City last year, which left the heart of the country's only Islamic City in ruins.
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, earlier told DZMM that the military airstrike hit the group of Abu Dar in the hinterlands of Sitio Giarong.
He said the military continues to go after the remnants of the Maute group that has been recruiting new members, enticing the youth with their loot from Marawi and funding from Abu Sayyaf bandits and their foreign allies.