AFP launches air, ground offensive vs Maute group

THE military reported on Monday that 30 alleged members of the Isis-inspired Maute group were killed while two soldiers were wounded as fighting rages “for three days now” in the Province of Lanao del Sur.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief, on Monday disclosed that series of skirmishes and armed clashes ensued since Friday (April 21) as the Joint Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao) launched an air and land offensive against the Maute group.

Galvez said the first firefight broke out around 6 a.m., Friday, when the troops encountered a group of Maute members in Piagapo Complex, Lanao del Sur.

Galvez said that 10 Maute members were killed as closed-air support was provided to the ground troops. Another six Maute followers were killed on Saturday.

He said the combat operation was immediately launched following reports from the local government that the Maute members are regrouping to craft terror plans on still unidentified targets.

Massive recruitment activities among teenagers were also monitored in the village Tambo and in the communities on the boundary of Piagapo and Balindong, Lanao del Sur.

Galvez said that 13 more Maute members were killed when ground troops launched an assault around 5:40 a.m., Sunday, April 23.

“There are indications that the bodies [of slain Maute members] were hastily removed [from the clash site],” Galvez added, citing they even received information that four foreigners were among the casualties.

The series of skirmishes occurred as the government troops continue to press on the Maute group.

“At 2 a.m. this morning (April 24), operating troops again encountered for three hours undetermined number of armed elements that resulted to the seizure of an encampment which can accommodate about 150 persons,” he said.

The troops have recovered from the fallen Maute camp the following: Isis flag, rifle grenades, fragmentation grenades, assorted bomb-making materials, subversive documents of high intelligence value, passport of Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, an Indonesian national, three motorcycles, two sacks of rice, video camera, cellular phones, and assorted camouflage uniforms.

Galvez said that a cadaver of an unidentified person clad in camouflage uniform was also found in the fallen camp “during the initial search of the troops.”

He said the fallen Maute camp is surrounded by deep running trenches. (SunStar Philippines)
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