Suspected extremists spotted in Balt Island in Lake Lanao

BACOLOD-KALAWI, Lanao del Sur -- Two Philippine Air Force Agusta attack helicopters pounded Balt Island in Lake Lanao after armed men believed to be IS-inspired extremists on board motorized boats were spotted in the island.

An eyewitness said one of the boats, which sought shelter in the island was destroyed in the helicopter attack.

Jun Sangcopan, a resident of nearby Bacolod-Kalawi town, said four motorized boats loaded with armed men were spotted by fisher folks who relayed the information to local officials and the military.

Sangcopan said one of the small motorized boats, which evaded the helicopter attack, sped towards Tugaya town and the two other boats headed to Ganasi town.

The four boats were to have anchored in the island on the afternoon of September 27.

Mayor Mohaimen Dipatuan of Bacolod, Kalawi said the suspected extremists may have survived the helicopter assault by hiding in a cave in the island which can accommodate more or less 15 individuals.

Dipatuan said Balt Island is just about two to three miles away from Nusa Island of Balindong town.

Nusa Island is currently occupied by a Moro Islamic Liberation Front community recognized by the Philippine Government.

Soldiers belonging to Task Force Lawa subsequently engaged the remaining suspected extremists at about 7:30 a.m., Thursday, September 28.

Army Colonel Romeo Brawner, Jr., deputy commander of Task Group Ranaw, said the Task Force are still waiting for the progress report from government forces still in the area.

Brawner said armed men are still believe to be hiding in the cave.

Brawner said Task Force Lawa is composed of the Philippine National Police Maritime Command, Naval Special Operations Group, and Special Forces.

Elements of the 65th Infantry Battalion have been deployed to secure part of the coastal area of Lake Lanao to prevent the escape of the armed men in the island as well as to prevent others from reinforcing them.

"We could not yet determine how many armed terrorist inside the island while the military operations is going on," Brawner said.
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