The black flag of the so-called Islamic State (IS) was raised in a Philippine city as government troops clashed with terrorists today (Tuesday, May 23).
One soldier has been confirmed killed, and at least eight are believed to have been wounded in clashes with the Maute terror group — believed to be harbouring a notorious Abu Sayyaf leader — in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Isnilon Hapilon — who has an FBI bounty of $5 million on his head — was identified among an estimated 15 militants.
Hapilon is the official representative, or ‘emir’, of IS in the region. Last month we reported that his was believed critically injured in a clash with government forces.
The fighting erupted at 2pm in the villages of Caloocan and Basak Malutlut. Local reports say the terrorists had earlier entered a hospital and hoisted the black flag of IS.
After the bullets began to fly, thousands of residents fled or locked themselves inside their homes.
The troops were supported by armoured personnel carriers and as of 4pm two Air Force planes had dropped several bombs on identified targets.
“I’m appealing to residents of Marawi City to stay home, drop on the ground if they hear gunshots,” Mamintal Adiong Jr, the provincial governor said, “They have to lock their doors and gates too.”
The Maute Islamist group — also known as the Dawlah Islamiya Philippines — is comprised of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas and some foreign fighters.
They are thought to have taken their name from its founder Abdullah Maute and claim affiliation to IS.
The clashes come as Muslims preparing to start the fasting month of Ramadan, which could start on Friday or Saturday, depending on the sighting of the moon.
Operations against the militants are continuing.