Maute fighters retreat to Butig's fringes, plant booby traps

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2016 09:49 AM | Updated as of Dec 01 2016 06:05 PM

BUTIG, Lanao Del Sur - State forces have flushed out the Maute terror group from the heart of this town and are now conducting clearing operations for booby traps left by the ISIS-linked fighters.

The Philippine Army on Thursday recaptured Butig's unused town hall which served as the last stronghold of Maute terrorists after soldiers retook the madrasa, national high school and other vital installations.

As of the latest report from the Armed Forces, 61 terrorists have been killed while 35 soldiers have been injured.

The military said there will be no let-up in its offensive even as the Maute Group retreats to their camps in the town's fringes.

"The town is deserted and the Maute is withdrawing towards the mountain," said military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla.

"They have been decimated. The capability to sustain and get back to the fight is no longer there."

ABS-CBN News is still seeking clearance to enter the town center, which is expected to have sustained heavy damage from the artillery and bombs which killed dozens of rebels.

The Maute group is being linked to the Sept. 2 bombing in Duterte's home city, Davao, which killed 14 people and wounded more than 70.

The Maute group is being linked to the Sept. 2 bombing in Duterte's home city, Davao, which killed 14 people and wounded more than 70.

Last week, Duterte offered an olive branch to Maute, questioning why it wanted to take orders from Islamic State.

"Maute, they are inspired by ISIS," Duterte said in a speech, using an abbreviation that refers to Islamic State. "I did not want to wage a war against my own countrymen. Please do not force my hand."

But he vowed not to relent.

"When the time comes, it's going to be a war against terrorism and drugs and I will tell you now, I will be harsh," Duterte said. "As harsh as I can ever be."

Separately, two persons of interest were taken into police custody Wednesday over the planting of a homemade bomb near the U.S. embassy. The device was detonated safely by police, who suspect the Maute of being behind it.

The Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade also said Maute sympathizers may have been responsible for an ambush that wounded seven presidential guards and two soldiers in Butig, Lanao del Sur on Tuesday.

-- With reports from Chiara Zambrano, Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News; Reuters