MANILA—Military units have stabilized the situation in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur following a clash with Maute Group terrorists allied with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon Tuesday afternoon.
“The situation in Marawi has been stabilized. Security forces are in full control of the situation. The armed men we are dealing with are not ISIS but (members of a) local terrorist group,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said Wednesday.
He added that reports and rumors claiming that the terrorists have captured and taken control of various government facilities are spurious and are meant to spread lies and disinformation aimed at attracting foreign terrorists support and recognition.
“The reported ‘eyewitness account’ is untrue that Amai Pakpak Hospital has been occupied and the people there were held hostage. The Marawi City Hall was not occupied as was earlier reported merely quoting ‘sources’,” Arevalo added.
“The sporadic firefights heard were harassment actions by terrorist sympathizers that were conducted as diversionary tactics to divide the attention of the reinforcing AFP personnel. But even these are already held in check,” he pointed out.
The clash between Maute Group members started 2 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Basak, Malutlut when government security forces learned of the presence of Hapilon and his cohorts.
Hapilon was reported severely wounded in the series of military operations in Lanao Del Sur early this January.
The former is reportedly the representative of the ISIS terror group in the Philippines.
This prompted military and police units to conduct a law enforcement operation but they were fired on first by the bandits,
“The security forces were fired upon constraining them to retaliate,” Arevalo stressed.
Initial reports said at least one soldier was killed and eight others were wounded.
“Follow up operations are still ongoing and we cannot reveal other details so as not to compromise operational security. Follow on forces are underway as we speak to further ensure that we will keep the grip of the situation,” the AFP official added.
Arevalo also urged the public to refrain from posting in social media information that would tend exacerbate the situation especially photos and videos on the movements of our troops and on terrorist propaganda circulating through social media.
“We will continue to provide updates as often as possible with due regard to the security of our operating forces and the conduct of the operations itself,” he added.