By Aaron Recuenco and MB Online
The military has launched an offensive to besiege some areas of Butig town in Lanao del Sur that were reportedly seized by approximately 100 armed members of the Maute group.
The group were alleged to be responsible for the September 2 night market blast in Davao City where 15 died and around 70 were injured.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has launched an operation to chase after the Maute leaders. The operation has been going for the last two days,” said Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman.
ABS-CBN News reported that the operation occurred five months after the military previously purged the town of Maute group terrorists.
At around 10:00 a.m. Saturday, November 26, fighting ensued between soldiers deployed as reinforcement and 15 members of the Maute group at Barangay Bayabao in Butig, said Major Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
Four of the 15 armed men were spotted carrying rocket-propelled grenades. Tan said there were no reported casualties from both sides. But according to ABS-CBN News, at least two soldiers sustained minor injuries.
Initial reports obtained by the Manila Bulletin disclosed that some 50 to 100 Maute group members have occupied some vital installations in Butig town since Thursday evening.
“Our troops are taking positions now, Joint Special Operations Unit were already deployed,” the report read.
ABS-CBN News said around 200 Maute members were in town, removing the Philippine flag from the town hall and replacing it with that of the Islamic State (ISIS), with which they pledged allegiance. They hung similar flags on some houses.
The town hall, a national high school and mosque in Butig were also reportedly taken over, but the AFP’s Padilla denied the Maute group has taken control of the municipal hall and the entire town. “The building they occupied is already the old abandoned building that is not being used. They did not attack the municipal building.”
Westmincom’s Tan also said the abandoned building is currently being occupied by Maute group members and their families.
Tan also clarified the military is the one running after the Maute group, contradicting reports that the terrorists were on an attack spree in Lanao del Sur.
All roads in Butig are off-limits and many residents fled to neighboring towns, ABS-CBN News reported.
The Maute group is an armed Islamist group founded by Abdullah Maute. Based in Lanao del Sur, some of its leaders were allegedly former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.