At least five government soldiers were wounded during an intense firefight with a band of Islamic State-linked militants in the southern Philippines, the military said Thursday.
A gunbattle broke out and lasted several hours after members of the 55th Infantry Battalion assaulted a suspected lair of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur province on Wednesday, military officials said.
“Five soldiers sustained minor injuries during the firefight and have been given medical attention,” battalion commander Lt. Col. Franco Rafael Alano said.
Government security officials said there were no immediate reports of casualties on the enemy side, a local militant group that had helped lead hundreds of pro-Islamic State (IS) fighters from the Philippines and other countries in a siege on the southern city of Marawi in 2017. Hundreds of fighters on both sides, as well as civilians were killed in a five-month battle then.
Alano said Wednesday’s firefight occurred in a remote village in the mountains outside the town of Madalum, where the enemy side dug in for five hours before escaping.
Troops recovered a home-made bomb, bomb-making materials, assorted ammunition, food rations and personal items, he said.
Baby paraphernalia was also recovered, indicating that an infant and its mother were in the company of the militants, Alano said.
“It was clear evidence of the terrorists’ disregard for the safety of their family members,” he said.
The militant group, he said, had been trying to build up its forces ever since their defeat in Marawi nearly four years ago. Those involved in the firefight in Lanao del Sur this week were part of its recruitment team, he added.
The clash took place a day after a suspected Dawlah Islamiyah member surrendered amid a military offensive against the group in the province, authorities said.
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, identified the member as Amirudin Dimakuta, 40, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.