Philippine govt soldiers kill 8 suspected Islamic State-linked militants in Mindanao firefight

Richel V. Umel
Iligan, Philippines
Philippine govt soldiers kill 8 suspected Islamic State-linked militants in Mindanao firefight A person injured in a bomb explosion at a local univeristy gym is attended to at a hospital in Marawi, southern Philippines, Dec. 3, 2023.
Froilan Gallardo/AP

Eight suspected Filipino militants belonging to a local group allied with Islamic State extremists were killed and four government soldiers wounded in fierce fighting in the southern Philippines on Thursday, the military said Friday.

The gun-battle between members of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group (DI-Maute) and soldiers with the 103rd Infantry Brigade broke out in the late afternoon in Piagapo, a remote town in Lanao del Sur province, military officials said.  

The soldiers were on a mission to hunt down two suspected DI-Maute militants who had been identified as the main perpetrators of a bombing that killed four people during a Catholic worship service at a university gymnasium in southern Marawi city in early December. 

According to military officials, the Filipino militants were apparently acting under the instructions of the Islamic State, which had earlier owned up to the attack.

“During the military operations the troops killed eight enemies,” Brig. Gen. Yegor Rey Baroquillo Jr., commander of the 103rd, told BenarNews. After the firefight, troops retrieved the bodies of the slain militants, he said.

Baroquillo said four members of the Scout Rangers, who were wounded in the fighting, were brought to a local hospital. He did not divulge the extent of their wounds.

He said the troops were after the Marawi bombers and that search operations were focused on three Lanao towns believed to be strongholds of the DI-Maute: Pantao Ragat, Poona PIagapo and Munai.

Brig. Gen. Anthon Abrina, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, told BenarNews in a phone interview that “we are on heightened, red alert status following the encounter Thursday evening.”

Troop reinforcements have been brought in and several checkpoints were established along the national highway leading to the areas “to ensure the safety of civilians in their respective communities,” Abrina said.

The towns in Lanao are near the city of Marawi, where the bombing took place. 

Military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has blamed the DI-Maute group for the bombing, saying it was carried out as revenge for a military operation elsewhere in the south that left over a dozen militants killed.

Two of those killed were identified as Mundi Sawadjaan and Jalandoni Lucsadato. Sawadjaan has been identified as a sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf, another Islamic State-linked group in the southern Philippines. 

He was also the nephew of the late Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who was thought to be the group’s leader before he was killed in 2020. The elder Sawadjaan at one time was also named as the IS leader for the Philippines.

Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan also masterminded a January 2019 bombing at a Catholic church on southern Jolo island that killed 23 people including an Indonesian couple blamed for the suicide attack, according to Philippine authorities.


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