Authorities in Northern Mindanao have been alerted for a possible “spillover” of clashes between government troops and a local terrorist group in neighboring Lanao del Sur, police said said Saturday.
“The command, which is already on ‘full alert’ status, has intensified its intelligence build-up and checkpoint operations in its boundaries to contain and prevent a spillover,” said Supt. Surki Sereñas, Northern Mindanao regional police spokesman.
Members of the 10th Regional Public Safety Battalion have also been sent to augment provincial and city police units that share geographical boundaries with Lanao del Sur “in case of eventualities,” Sereñas said in a statement.
Lanao del Norte and its capital, Iligan City, share a vast boundary with Lanao del Sur.
Police units there are also “constantly” coordinating with police and military counterparts in the affected areas, Sereñas said.
Clashes in Lanao del Sur’s Butig town erupted last February 20 after about 80 to 100 followers of brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute attacked a military detachment there.
As of Saturday, troops have recovered five bodies of the Mautes’ followers, three M16 rifles, a sniper rifle, and two rocket-propelled grenades, said Colonel Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade.
Earlier, the military said intelligence reports indicate that at least 42 terror suspects, including Omar Maute, had been killed in the week-long offensive.
Three soldiers also died in the clashes while 11 more were injured.
Security forces have been pounding the hinterlands of Butig since Feb. 20 with OV-10 bomber planes, MG-520 attack helicopters, and Howitzer cannons, prompting more than 20,000 people living nearby to evacuate.
No clash occurred on Saturday, but soldiers are still pursuing the Mautes’ remaining followers, Murillo said.
The Maute brothers’ group has been proclaiming itself as a branch of the Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria but authorities dismissed these claims, saying the local gunmen were only joining the ISIS bandwagon.
The group is “allied” to a certain Ustadz Sanusi, an Indonesian conduit of the Jemaah Islamiyah who was killed in a raid in Marawi City in November 2012, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a recent interview. (John Roson)
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