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Presidential Security Group ambushed in Marawi

As if Mindanao needed more conflict before the year ends.

The convoy of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) advanced team was ambushed en route to Marawi City from Iligan City on Tuesday. The PSG convoy escorted by military personnel was attacked at around 10:30 a.m. after an improvised explosive device was detonated, leaving nine injured, seven from the PSG and two from the military.

The convoy was an advanced party of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is scheduled to visit the 103rd Brigade in Marawi today, Nov. 30 to check on their efforts against the Maute Group, who had earlier attacked the municipality of Butig in Lanao del Sur.

Although reports have not identified or confirmed the culprits, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its spokesperson, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, suspects that the attackers were members or supporters of the Maute terror group.

The Maute Group, also known as the Islamic State in Lanao, are composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and are believed to have connections with the Abu Sayyaf Group and the international terrorist threat that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Last Friday, the said group had captured the old municipal hall in Butig, Lanao del Sur in a possible attempt to take back its old headquarters, which it had previously lost back in February this year. The firefight resulted in six dead soldiers and 12 dead militants.

Last Saturday, at around 10:00 a.m., government troops had cornered the Maute Group fighters who had taken the old municipal building in Butig. The soldiers were fired upon while conducting clearing operations following an air support bombing run.

The Maute Group still holds an ideal strategic position in Butig, forcing the Armed Forces to intensify its efforts to clear the area of the terrorists, and even capturing the attention and itinerary of the president. As of yesterday, the Armed Forces has once again sent bombers and fired shells at the location of the members of the Maute Group in the said municipality. According to reports, yesterday’s casualty count on the side of the Maute Group has reached 35, while 20 soldiers have been wounded.

The Maute Group was responsible for the Davao City bombing back in September 2016; the bombing of the night market left 15 dead and 70 injured. Responsibility for the act of terror, the first in Davao in decades, was first claimed by the Abu Sayyaf Group, but the claim was later retracted.

On October 2, 2016 three of the ten suspects, who have links to the Maute Group, were arrested.

Amidst these unfortunate events, the peace talks between the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Moro National Liberation Front have not been deterred.

This does, however, dampen the efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the government in their campaign to quell terrorist insurgencies.

Aside from having to deal with the Abu Sayyaf, the military has the Maute Group to consider as well. Dealing with these lawless elements, which have no apparent impetus for their terrorism aside from occasional banditry, will be no easy task, all the more so, if intelligence reports are correct, and if in fact, they are connected to ISIS.