Firefight between Gov’t and Maute group displaces 1,500 families in Lanao Sur

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ILIGAN CITY (June 18)  – At least 1,500 families in Lanao del Sur fled home due to a firefight between government forces and the Daesh-inspired Maute terrorist group that started Sunday morning, June 17, 2018.

The fight took place at the boundaries of the municipalities of Pagayawan and Tubaran towards the town of Marogong, the most affected areas according to the Provincial Crisis Management Committee (PCMC).

Zia Adiong, spokesperson of the PCMC, said there are 500 families from nine (9) barangays in Tubaran while 255 families from seven (7) barangays in Pagayawan who fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring towns in Binidayan and Bayang.

According to Adiong, there is still no official report on the number of displaced families in Marogong, but some of the more than 700 families who evacuated in Binidayan are from the said town .

Around 49 families are in Bayang. “Our Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) has been activated to coordinate with the military and to provide all the necessary humanitarian response and assistance,” Adiong said.

He added that Governor Soraya Adiong has also directed all line agencies, especially the Provincial Social Welfare and Development (PSWD) and the Provincial Health Office (PHO) to mobilize and start checking on the needs of the affected families.

The availability of all spaces has also been monitored for the accommodation of the displaced families. The Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) has been reconvened to assess and monitor the situation on the ground to avoid spill-over of the clashes to other municipalities.

“Pinapabantayan especially ang (mga exits ng) Tubaran kasi hilly, magkakaroon sila (terorista) ng natural defense system,” Adiong added.   He pointed out that the primary concern of the provincial government is to ensure the safety of civilians because it does not want to replicate the Marawi siege.

Romeo Brawner, Jr., deputy commander of the Joint Task Force Ranao, said the operation started Friday when government troops were positioned to run after the group of Owayda Benito Marohomsar alias Abu Dar.

Marahomsar  has been in the terror wanted list of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with a P3-million  bounty on his head. He is said to be the appointed emir (leader) of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia replacing Abu Sayaff leader Isnilon Hapilon who was killed in the five-month war in Marawi.

Abu Dar, who hails from Pagayawan town, was reportedly one of the 10 leaders who planned the attack in Marawi last year.

The video footage of their group planning the attack was recovered by the military from the laptop the militants left at Hapilon’s apartment in Barangay Bask Malutlut in Marawi at the start of the firefight.

Brawner said, Abu Dar escaped from the main battle ground during the early weeks of Marawi siege purposely to get additional troops from outside but was not able to go back to the battle field due to heightened checkpoints.

Abu Dar has continued recruiting members, targeting young ones whose family members died during Marawi siege. They are being trained in the mountainous parts of Lanao del Sur and he has been sighted frequently in Tubaran.

The AFP assured that no civilians will be caught in a cross fire because the aerial bombings has concentrated in the mountainous parts of Lanao del Sur where the terrorists are hiding.

Brawner said there are reports indicating that five members of the Maute-ISIS group have been killed. “The military is still verifying these reports. We are asking the public to stay calm. The 103rd Infantry Brigade is making sure that the hostilities will not extend beyond the mountanous areas of Tubaran and Pagayawan of Lanao del Sur,” Brawner said in a statement sent to the media Monday afternoon.-Divina M. Suson/NewsLine.ph

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