5 extremists reportedly killed
MANILA - The military on Tuesday said it has captured the campsite of Islamic State-linked Maute gunmen in the southern province of Lanao del Sur, following an air strike and bursts of gunfight that displaced thousands.
Government troops on Sunday attacked the extremist lair in Tubayawan town, after monitoring the presence of the reported new emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, Abu Dar.
Soldiers were still hunting for 30 of Abu Dar's followers after the fall of their campsite, said Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao.
"Nakita yung mga bunkers nila. Meron silang tower, merong foxholes, merong empty shells, may mga bala pa sila," he said.
(We found their bunkers. They had towers, foxholes, empty shells and a cache of ammunition.)
The military has cordoned off the area to prevent any spillover of violence outside the province, but will no longer hold bomb runs, said Brawner.
Authorities, he said, were also validating reports that the airstrike killed 5 rebels.
Authorities have tagged Abu Dar as one of the leaders of a 5-month long siege by the ISIS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City last year. The fighting left much of the city in ruins and led to the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao.
Dar and 40 followers escaped from Marawi during the early days of the fighting, said Brawner.
The Maute Group only has a few remaining fighters, but has stepped up its recruitment efforts, enticing the youth with their loot from Marawi and funding from Abu Sayyaf bandits and their foreign allies, the official earlier told ABS-CBN News.
The latest round of hostilities drove some 700 families to evacuation centers, said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee.
Maute gunmen previously used Tubaran, home to 50,000, as a training ground. They used family connections in the town to move around and gain support from the ground, he said.
Report from Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News