Troops fire ar­tillery at Is­lamic mil­i­tants

The Myanmar Times - - World -

TROOPS fired ar­tillery at po­si­tions held by an Is­lamic mil­i­tant fac­tion in the south­ern Philippines yes­ter­day as more sol­diers de­ployed against the group, which staged a deadly bomb­ing in Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s home city.

The army is try­ing to dis­lodge mem­bers of the Maute group from an aban­doned town hall and other po­si­tions they have oc­cu­pied in Butig, a re­mote, mainly Mus­lim moun­tain town on Min­danao is­land.

Clashes broke out on Novem­ber 26 be­tween the mem­bers of Maute, which claims al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group, and the army.

Armed forces spokesper­son Bri­gadier Gen­eral Resti­tuto Padilla, cit­ing what he called “in­tel­li­gence sources”, said 11 of the mil­i­tants had been killed and five wounded.

The bod­ies of the slain fight­ers had not yet been re­cov­ered, he said, adding that two sol­diers were wounded.

Re­porters in Butig said the mil­i­tary had ob­tained pho­to­graphs of the Maute group fly­ing the black IS flag over the oc­cu­pied build­ing.

They said they them­selves were not close enough to ver­ify this.

Another mil­i­tary spokesper­son, Colonel Edgard Arevalo, said this ac­tion was ex­pected.

“They have long been pro­fess­ing al­le­giance to the for­eign terror group. This is still part of the Maute group’s agenda in court­ing sup­port and en­cour­ag­ing sim­i­lar-minded in­di­vid­u­als to sup­port ISIS,” he said in a state­ment, re­fer­ring to another acro­nym for the IS.

The Maute group is one of sev­eral armed Is­lamist or­gan­i­sa­tions in Min­danao which have pledged al­le­giance to Is­lamic State fight­ers in Iraq and Syria.

In past fight­ing with troops, the group’s mem­bers would be seen car­ry­ing black IS flags and ban­dan­nas bear­ing the ji­hadists’ in­signia were found in their base.

Three mem­bers of the Maute group were ar­rested last month, ac­cused of the Septem­ber bomb­ing that left 15 peo­ple dead in Davao, Mr

Duterte’s home town and Min­danao’s largest city.

Res­i­dents of Butig, which has a pop­u­la­tion of 17,000, fled af­ter the old town hall was oc­cu­pied.

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.

The Mautes, once de­scribed by the mil­i­tary as a small-time ex­tor­tion gang, 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. –

Philip­pine troops fire 105mm howitzer can­nons to­ward en­emy po­si­tions from their base near Butig town on the south­ern is­land

Photo: AFP

of Min­danao yes­ter­day.

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