By: Denz Laguipo
THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) appeared to be winning the war against the notorious Maute Group as 19 of the latter’s members were killed in a military offensive since Saturday.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs chief, said eight members were added to the eleven members of the group who were killed on Saturday.
The eight died on Sunday as the AFP offensive continued on Sunday in Butig town in Lanao del Sur, Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the AFP decided to carry out military offensive against the Maute Group after it occupied the old and abandoned municipal hall of Butig town.
Butig used to be a ‘territory’ of Maute, but was taken over from the group by the AFP early this year.
The Maute Group that publicly claimed its connection with the international terrorist group ISIS has raised the black flag of the latter in a flagpole fronting the old municipal building and replaced the Philippine flag.
The act strongly suggest that the Maute Group was extremely prepared to go into a bloody war against the Philippine government.
“This prompted the immediate conduct of military operations focused on dislodging the lawless group. (At least two)] soldiers were slightly wounded, while 11 members of Maute Group were killed and at least (five were) wounded,” Arevalo said in a statement.
The incident forced the residents to evacuate Butig town at around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Arevalo explained that “The recent action of the lawless Maute Group in occupying an abandoned portion of Butig Municipality 9 o’clock in the morning of 26 November 2016 has driven the people from other areas of the town to flee their homes.”
AFP dossier showed that the Maute is an armed Islamic State-influenced rebel group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and some foreign fighters led by Abdullah Maute, the alleged founder of a Dawlah Islamiya, or Islamic State based in Lanao del Sur.
The Maute group was reportedly responsible for the Davao City bombing that killed and wounded civilians.
Those who were responsible for the bombing were already arrested by the AFP, including the 19-year-old boy who planted the bomb in the nigh market located at the Roxas Avenue.
AFP has yet to capture the mastermind of the daring attack.