ILIGAN CITY – At least 4 gunmen, two of them alleged members of the jihadist Maute group, were killed in separate clashes Tuesday in Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said.
Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the first gun battle erupted in the town of Maguing after security forces swooped down before 3 a.m. on a hideout of suspected drug dealers with links to the Maute group.
Two gunmen had been killed in the fighting, but two army soldiers were also injured in the clash, Petinglay said, adding, the gang had been selling crystal meth and is largely financed by the Maute group.
She said security forces were serving arrest warrants when the fighting broke out. “The search warrant was served against the drug syndicate which is affiliated with and being financed by the Maute group in Lanao del Sur,” Petinglay said, quoting a statement from Major General Carlito Galvez, the regional military commander.
Petinglay said troops also recovered an M16 automatic rifle and munitions, including 2 packets of suspected meth from the slain gang members. The wounded soldiers, she said, were rushed to hospital in Iligan City.
She said at day break, troops also clashed with over 2 dozen jihadists in the town of Poona Bayabao, about 30 kilometers from Maguing where two more gunmen had been killed in the village called Ragayan.
The fighting lasted over 45 minutes and soldiers recovered four automatic rifles, a rifle grenade launcher and an anti-tank rocket propelled grenade launcher, including two improvised explosives from the battle site.
Petinglay said troops retrieved the bodies of all four slain gunmen and that security operations continue in the province, a known stronghold of the Maute and other jihadist groups tied to the Islamic State. (Mindanao Examiner)