MANILA, Philippines – An army scout ranger was killed in clashes with Maute militants on Monday, December 5, as the military continues operations to clear the small town of Butig in Lanao del Sur of the presence of the local terrorist group.
The elite soldier, whose name has yet to be released, is the first to die on the military side since it launched the offensive dubbed “Butig 3” – the 3rd major attack against the Maute group this year.
The soldier, part of the First Scout Ranger Company, was killed in an armed confrontation with the Maute group in Sitio Makalupog in Barangay Sandab, according to Butig ground commander Colonel Rosseler Murillo.
Adjacent to a camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Barangay Sandab is home to many members of the Muslim rebel group talking peace with the Philippine government.
The Maute group had been trying to seek refuge near MILF areas to take advantage of the peace talks, confident that the military will not attack MILF areas. (READ: Maute taking refuge near MILF areas in Butig)
The military said the scout rangers encountered about 20 members of the Maute group there. A firefight ensued.
Military reports show up to 38 soldiers have been wounded since the military offensive was launched November 24. On the part of the Maute group, the military said 63 of them have been killed while 17 others have been wounded.
Inspired by foreign terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS), the Maute group seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Mindanao.
They occupied 10 hectares of Butig town and raised ISIS’ black flag at the abandoned municipal hall. It took the military 6 days to regain control of the building.
The military continues to hunt down the leaders of the Maute group. (READ: PNP, AFP raid Maute compound in Marawi City)
President Rodrigo Duterte also offered peace talks to the Maute group. – Rappler.com
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