Philippine military: IS-linked militants kill 2 army intelligence operatives

BenarNews staff
Iligan, Philippines
Philippine military: IS-linked militants kill 2 army intelligence operatives Philippine soldiers stand guard at a Mindanao State University gymnasium entrance in Marawi while police investigators gather evidence after a bomb attack during a Catholic worship service, Dec. 3, 2023.
Merlyn Manos/AFP

Filipino Islamic militants ambushed and killed two army intelligence operatives who were gathering information in the southern Philippines against suspects linked to a deadly bombing in Marawi city last month, the military said Thursday.

The soldiers were among three staff sergeants seeking information about the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group in Munai, a remote town in Lanao del Norte province on Wednesday, said local infantry chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Viray III.

The third soldier survived the attack.

“They conducted intel gathering, information gathering. While returning [to their base], they were ambushed,” said Viray, referring to the 51st Infantry Battalion members. 

The soldiers, who wore civilian clothes and rode two motorcycles, were attacked by at least six members of the “terrorist group,” Viray said. 

“Two of them died while the other is safe,” he told reporters, adding their families had been notified.  

Daulah Islamiyah means “Islamic State” in the local language and has fighters from several Filipino militant factions. One of those groups is the Maute Group, named after the Maute brothers who led and provided logistics support during a five-month siege of the southern city of Marawi by pro-Islamic State (IS) militants in 2017. 

Worship service bombed

On Dec. 3, a Sunday, militants bombed a Catholic Mass taking place at a university gymnasium in Marawi, killing four people and injuring 50 others.  

IS claimed responsibility for the attack, which came slightly more than six years after fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East were expelled from Marawi after failing in their bid to make the lake shore city their caliphate in the region. The Philippine military, backed by the U.S. and Australia, retook the city on Oct. 23, 2017, following five months of fighting that left 1,200 militants, soldiers and civilians dead. 

Military and regional police have been on heightened alert and have launched a large-scale manhunt for two leaders who are believed to be the masterminds of the attack on the church service in December, military officials said. 

In addition, troops killed one of five suspected IS fighters who attacked an infantry camp near the town of Maguing, also in Lanao. The pre-dawn attack on Dec. 28 was repulsed after a few minutes and the body of the unidentified dead militant, along with an assault weapon and ammunition, were left behind, the military said. 

Richel V. Umel in Iligan City, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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