Army denies ISIS claim of military deaths in Lanao del Sur
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine military on Saturday, January 26, denied the claim of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that its fighters killed 30 government soldiers in Sultan Dumalondong, Lanao del Sur.
“This is fake news and the people of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur are now aware of the lies propagated by the IS,” Colonel Romeo Brawner, the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade Commander, said in a text message to Rappler on Saturday.
ISIS' statement on the supposed deaths, made on Thursday, January 25, was the first statement it had issued in relation to local terrorists since November 2017.
ISIS posted online that its East Asia Province fighters clashed with government troops.
“Let the worshippers of the Cross and their helpers everywhere know that the Islamic State continues to break their torn and smash their crosses and idols, and Allah is the granters of success and He is the helper,” the statement said as translated by SITE.
Earlier, Brawner said that based on their intelligence, there are less than 50 fighters left with the former Maute-ISIS group now called Dawlah Islamiyah-Lanao.
Dawlah Islamiyah-Lanao is claimed by ISIS as its East Asia Province.
The military earlier reported that government troops captured 3 Maute-ISIS fighters late Friday, January 25, as troopers continued their assault on the remnants of the local terror group.
Maute-ISIS fighters are now known as Dawlah Islamiyah-Lanao.
Abdillah Bationg, Kalid Hadjinur, and Casanur Hadjinur were arrested following a tip given to soldiers from the 8th Light Armor Cavalry and the 10th Scout Ranger Company.
In a debriefing, one of the suspects told the military that they parted ways with their companions after they were unable to withstand the assault.
The military, with the aid of electronic intelligence from the United States drone program providing information on "focus areas," launched an assault against the militants under the leadership of Abu Dar.
Abu Dar escaped the Marawi siege in the early weeks of June 2017, when ISIS terrorists tried to establish a caliphate in Marawi City. The siege lasted 6 months with the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute on October 16, 2017. The military declared the end of combat operations in November 2017.
The suspected militants told the military that they had been flanked by government troopers when they decided to withdraw.
“Our leaders are nowhere to be found so we made a run for it,” the suspects told the mlitary.
'No other option'
Brawner earlier said there would be no let-up in the military operation to rid Lanao del Sur of Maute-ISIS remnants.
“We will take them out of their comfort zones until they have no other option but to die or return to the folds of the law,” Brawner said in a statement.
Brawner said that the communities and local chief executives were key players in gathering intelligence information necessary to sustain the combat operations.
“It is now the Meranaos and soldiers against the Maute-IS remnants. We are a formidable force to be reckoned with,” he said.
Brawner acknowledged assistance from local chief executives for providing “almost real time” information on the location of the terrorists.
“With the amount of support we are receiving from the populace, we are well on our way liberate Lanao del Sur from these terror groups,” Brawner added. – Rappler.com