COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 1 June)—Four members of the ISIS-inspired Dawlah Islamiyah (DI), also known as the Maute group, and one military personnel were killed during a fierce encounter Wednesday night in an interior village of Marogong town in Lanao del Sur.
Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, regional director of Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR), said that troops of Scout Rangers conducted focused military operation (FMO) after information received that several DI members were hiding in a secluded location in Brgy. Piangolongan of the said town.
“We have our Scene of the Crime Operatives now in the area conducting further investigation, we have information received that there were also civilians rescued,” Nobleza said.
He added that the location of the encounter is around four to five kilometers away from the town center, where some residents who fled last week sought refuge, and had just started to return to their homes.
Nobleza said that past 7 p.m., operatives of Joint Task Group-Haribon led by a certain 1st Lt. Manuel from a Scout Ranger company engaged DI members in close-quarters combat. When the smoke cleared, the body of one militant was found, while one soldier was also killed, identified as PFC Jemric Pol Cotingjo. Three more soldiers were wounded.
Nobleza said that two hours later and not far from the first encounter site, troops led by a certain Capt. Legada encountered the same group, which was under the leadership of Abu Zacharia. The firefight lasted five minutes, with the DI forces withdrawing towards the west after they were overpowered by the Scout Rangers.
Three from the militants were killed in the second battle, Nobleza said.
The soldiers also reported rescuing two minors and a woman.
Nobleza said high-powered firearms—AR-15 Bushmaster, M16, and R4 rifles, including ammunitions—improvised explosive device components, grenades, radio communication equipment, and other war materials were found in the clash site.
“Based on our information, the group of Zacharia has splintered into four, and have managed to change location anytime in the jungle areas,” he added.
Military and police forces in the area are now on high alert.
Earlier last week, Zacharia warned to attack Marogong after four of their young comrades were arrested by elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and turned them over to the military.
Nobleza said that around 4,000 residents have so far evacuated due to fear of the attack. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)