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Nine Islamist militants killed in Lanao del Sur clash: army

by Carl Santos

NINE Islamist militants, including three suspects in a Catholic mass bombing in Marawi City last December, were killed in a clash with troops, the military said Saturday.

Army soldiers shot it out with about 15 Dawlah Islamiyah suspects hiding out at a mountain farm close to the remote municipality of Piagapo, Lanao del Sur, on Thursday, the commander of the military unit said.

The firefight left nine of the gunmen dead and four soldiers wounded, including two who were taken to the hospital with “serious” wounds, army brigade commander Brigadier General Yegor Rey Barroquillo told AFP.

He said three of the six suspects in the bombing of a Catholic mass at a school in the southern city of Marawi last month were among those killed in Thursday’s fighting.

“Of the nine, three had direct participation in the MSU bombing,” Barroquillo said, referring to the December 3 blast at Mindanao State University in Marawi that left four people dead and dozens wounded.

Barroquillo said three other bombing suspects were still on the run, including the alleged mastermind, a former student at the university who went by the alias “Engineer.”

Soldiers also seized nine high-powered firearms and two improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Army Scout Rangers, trained in jungle combat, crept up to a cluster of mountain farmhouses where the suspects had sought refuge to evade the post-bombing manhunt.

“Six (gunmen) were able to escape, and in our assessment, the Engineer was among them,” Barroquillo said, adding the farmers had left the area earlier this month after the gunmen arrived.

In a statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. said the operation showed that the military ”will not tolerate those who endanger the lives and well-being of our people.”

”The remaining few will face our full force and unshakeable resolve in bringing every single responsible individual to account,” Brawner said.

”We call upon those considering violence to rethink their choices, for the AFP remains an indomitable force ensuring the safety and confidence of our citizens.”

Militant attacks on buses, Catholic churches, and public markets have been a feature of decades-long unrest in the south.

Manila signed a peace pact with the nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014, ending their deadly armed rebellion.

But smaller bands of Muslim fighters opposed to the peace deal remain, including militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State group.

with a report from Agence France-Presse

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