LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – About 2,000 residents fled Butig, Lanao del Sur, on Wednesday, February 24, following clashes between soldiers and alleged terrorists that killed two soldiers and 6 other armed men, including an Indonesian.
Authorities said the fighting began Saturday, February 20, after 60 armed men attacked an army patrol base in Butig down. The military refers to the armed group as Local and Foreign Terrorist Organization, avoiding any reference to ISIS (Islamic State), which intelligence reports showed has begun operating in this part of Mindanao.
Two soldiers were killed in the attack while an Indonesian was slain along with 5 other armed men from the side of the terrorists, the military said.
Authorities identified the Indonesian as Mohammad Muktar.
The attack prompted the army to launch a full-scale operation in the area.
Jennie Tamano, provincial information officer of Lanao del Sur, said that 2,067 people have been evacuated from the area and are now in Marawi City.
The clashes on Wednesday followed an ambush of an army convoy on the same day in Barangay Cadapaan along Wato-Balindong town, that killed one soldier.
The military has dismissed this claim even if the Moro Islamic Liberation confirmed ISIS recruitment in Central Mindanao.
In November last year, 8 members of a criminal group – including an alleged Indonesian bomb maker – were killed in a clash with government troops in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat. – Rappler.com
(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story carried a photo caption that identified the vehicle as a Red Cross vehicle. It is a military vehicle. The Red Cross explained that the vehicle bore a red cross emblem "because according to national and international laws, military vehicles may use the red cross emblem if it is for medical purposes." They clarified that "we also currently have no humanitarian response in Butig.")