By Francis T. Wakefield
Government troops of the Joint Task Force “Ranao” encountered Maute-ISIS remnants and bombers in Lanao del Sur over the weekend, clashing for the first time since the government declared victory over the terrorist group in Marawi City last October.
Army spokesman Major Ronald Suscano said six soldiers sustained minor shrapnel wounds as a result of the encounter.
The clash erupted after government forces encountered about 10 members of the Maute Group in a district in Lanao del Sur, a stronghold of the rebel group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, Suscano said in a statement.
Major General Roseller G. Murillo, the commander of the army’s 1st Infantry Division, disclosed that the encounter took place early Saturday morning when government forces responded to a report from concerned residents about the presence of armed militants.
The exchange of fire lasted about 35 minutes until the militants fled, said Murillo.
He added that the terrorists attempted to escape via the lake but soldiers were able to sink their two boats.
Operating troops collected one M-203 grenade launcher, two rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), three anti-personnel 60 mm RPG ammo, one anti-tank RPG ammo, three 40mm ammo, a hand grenade, two RPG fuse, one binocular, one ISIS flag, and several drug paraphernalia.
Murillo said this is the first encounter since the liberation of Marawi City was declared on Oct. 23, 2017.
He commended the operating troops for the successful operation.
“We shall continue to totally eliminate the remaining Daesh-inspired groups in Lanao Provinces and to sustain our efforts to prevent them from establishing Wilayat and spreading Daesh ideology in our joint area of operation,” Murillo said. (With a report from Reuters)