ZAMBOANGA CITY – The military killed 30 alleged members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-inspired Maute group “in a fighting that has been raging in the last three days,” a military official claimed Monday.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said a series of clashes erupted between soldiers and the Maute group as the Joint Task Force Zampelan launched air and land offensives against the terror group starting Friday, April 21.
Zampelan stands for Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao, which is headed by Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Baustista.
Galvez said the first firefight broke out at around 6 a.m. Friday after troops encountered a group of Maute members in Piagapo Complex, Lanao del Sur.
Ten Maute members were killed on Friday and another six the next day (Saturday), he claimed.
“Reports from the local government indicates that the Maute members are regrouping to craft terror plans on still unidentified targets that is why combat operations were immediately launched [by the task force,” Galvez said.
Galvez said that 13 more Maute members were killed when ground troops launched an assault at around 5:40 a.m. Sunday, April 23.He said the troops recovered from the fallen Maute camp an ISIS flag, rifle and fragmentation grenades, assorted bomb-making materials, a passport of an Indonesian national named Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, three motorcycles, two sacks of rice, a video camera, cellular phones and assorted camouflage uniforms.
Galvez said that a cadaver of an unidentified person clad in camouflage uniform was found in the fallen camp “during the initial search of the troops.”
He said clearing operations continue in the captured camp, which is surrounded by deep running trenches.
Galvez said they believed that the Abu Sayyaf groups from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have established ties with the Maute group since last year.
The continuing operations are also part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for the AFP to destroy the Maute, the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups within six months.
The focused military operations in Lanao del Sur were closely coordinated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the ceasefire mechanism. Teofilo Garcia Jr./PNA-northboundasia.com