IS-linked mil­i­tants un­der siege in Philip­pine town

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Up to 100 Is­lamist mil­i­tants from a group be­hind a deadly bomb­ing in Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s home city were yes­ter­day un­der siege in a re­mote moun­tain town, of­fi­cials said.

Res­i­dents of Butig, which has a pop­u­la­tion of 17,000, have fled af­ter the ISlinked mil­i­tants holed them­selves up in an aban­doned govern­ment build­ing, Philip­pine mil­i­tary spokesman Bri­gadier-Gen­eral Resti­tuto Padilla said. “The Armed Forces of the Philip­pines has launched an op­er­a­tion to chase af­ter the Maute lead­ers,” Padilla told AFP, adding that ar­tillery and mil­i­tary air­craft were aid­ing ground-based se­cu­rity forces.

Two sol­diers had been wounded in skir­mishes with the Maute group since mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions be­gan on Thurs­day, he said. The group is one of sev­eral armed Is­lamist or­ga­ni­za­tions in the south­ern re­gion of Min­danao which have pledged al­le­giance to Is­lamic State fight­ers in Iraq and Syria. The stand-off fol­lows the ar­rest of three mem­bers of the group last month, ac­cused of the Septem­ber bomb­ing that left 15 peo­ple dead in Davao, Duterte’s home­town and Min­danao’s largest city.

Govern­ment forces have sur­rounded be­tween 50-100 Maute gun­men to pre­vent a pos­si­ble spillover of the fight­ing to other ar­eas, Ma­jor File­mon Tan, the mil­i­tary spokesman for the south­ern Philip­pines, told ABS-CBN tele­vi­sion.

He did not pro­vide de­tails of troop num­bers. Butig is a mainly Mus­lim ru­ral town on the lower slopes of Ra­gang, one of the coun­try’s tallest moun­tains and more than 800 kilo­me­tres (500 miles) south of Manila. Govern­ment forces cap­tured a Maute train­ing camp in the town in June af­ter a 10-day gun­bat­tle that left four sol­diers and dozens of mil­i­tants dead, ac­cord­ing to an army ac­count.

Once de­scribed by the mil­i­tary as a small-time ex­tor­tion gang, the group at­tacked a re­mote army out­post in Butig in Fe­bru­ary, trig­ger­ing a week of fight­ing that the mil­i­tary said left six sol­diers and 12 mil­i­tants dead. The group also be­headed two em­ploy­ees of a lo­cal sawmill in April, the mil­i­tary has said. The south­ern Philip­pines has been plagued by a Mus­lim sep­a­ratist in­sur­gency for more than 40 years, leav­ing more than 100,000 peo­ple dead ac­cord­ing to govern­ment es­ti­mates. — AFP

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