Sus­pected ex­trem­ists spot­ted in Balt is­land in Lake Lanao

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - By Richel V. Umel Cor­re­spon­dent

BACOLOD, KALAWI, Lanao del Sur- Two Philip­pine Air Force (PAF) 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.

One of the boats which sought shel­ter in the is­land was de­stroyed in the he­li­copter at­tack, ac­cord­ing to an eye­wit­ness.

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 tne Nusa Is­land of Balin­dong town .

Nusa is­land is cur­rently oc­cu­pied by an MILF com­mu­nity rec­og­nized by the Philip­pine Gov­ern­ment.

Sol­diers be­long­ing to Task Force Lawa sub­se­quently en­gaged the re­main­ing sus­pected ex­trem­ists at about 7:30 in the morn­ing of 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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