By Frencie L. Carreon
Troops from the Philipppine Army’s 55th (Vigilant) Infantry Battalion stationed in Lanao del Sur offered militants a chance for peaceful lives, following a heavy firefight in Sultan Dumalundong town.
“We are giving them a chance to live a peaceful and meaningful life. We are calling on the remaining Maute-IS fighters to surrender peacefully to the nearest military installation before the next combat operations falls into your doorsteps. Take this offer now before it’s too late,” saisd Col. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., Commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade.
It was an unexpected armed clash in the area, since government troops have seized the infiltrated communities in Marawi from Maute-IS militants. But disturbed community residents at Sultan Dumalundong in Lanao del Sur reported unusual movements at a particular area and reported such to the 55th Infantry Battalion stationed nearby.
The immediate action by the “Vigilant forces,” as the unit has been officially labeled, was met with an intense 10-hour firefight last Thursday, January 24, 2019.
“We acted on the information as reported by the residents and the local chief executives,” said Lt. Col. Ian Ignes, 55IB, PA Commanding Officer.
“The enemy was completely taken by surprise as evident from the direction of their initial gunfires. We met fierce resistance as soon as we hit their final defensive lines,” LTC Ignes said.
With more or less 24 Dawlah Islamiyah, Lanao remnants from the ISIS-Maute terrorist group, believed to be under a leader named Abu Dhar, the group has been hiding in Lanao’s hinterlands.
“Despite the enemy’s advantage over the terrain, our troops were able to gain ground and managed to penetrate their defensive lines through timely and accurate supporting fires,” said Col. Brawner, who led the assault.
“Immediate fire support was provided through artillery and helicopters, sending the DI-Lanao remnants into their bunkers. The splintered group then scattered for survival, abandoning their stronghold due to the intense ground and air support. Exploitation of the site reveals several defensive positions to include running trenches and fortified bunkers. A training camp was also found some hundred meters from the terrorists’ defensive lines,” report by the 1st Infantry Division, Philippine Army said.
“The armed encounter is the result of our relentless campaign against Maute ISIS remnants and Abu Dar group. We also ask the local populace for their trust, support and prayers for our troops who are still in the area to neutralize the remaining Maute ISIS remnants who continuously threaten the safety and well-being of Meranaos,” said Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, 1st Infantry Division, PA and JTF Zampelan Commander.
While the clash resulted to the loss of six lives, 3 from the DI-Lanao and 3 from government troops, residents fear that more DI-Lanao members are still lurking around.
Violent Extremism still continues among its straggling elements, and further harassment could happen as recruitment may be forced owing to extreme need for means of survival.
But the government troops are relentless in their efforts to serve and secure the affected communities.