3 soldiers, 2 militants dead in southern Philippine clash

MANILA, March 15  — Three government soldiers and two Maute group militants have been killed in a clash in the southern Philippines, the Philippine military said on Friday.
Military spokesperson Col. Gerry Besana said three more soldiers have been reported missing in the wake of a clash that broke out around 5 p.m. local time on Thursday in Tubaran town in Lanao del Sur province.
“The gunfight ensued for an hour and 30 minutes,” Besana said, adding that troops recovered two caliber 5.56 rifles with M203 grenade launchers, a caliber 45 pistol, hand and rifle grenades, assorted ammunition and a bandolier.
“Meanwhile, three soldiers died while three more are missing in action in yesterday’s gunfight,” added Besana, without identifying the slain and still missing soldiers.
Thursday’s clash came three days after army troops also clashed with Maute fighters in Pagawayan town, also in Lanao del Sur, leaving two Maute fighters and two soldiers dead, and a soldier wounded.
The Maute group, founded by Omar and Abdullah Maute, was responsible for multiple attacks throughout the Philippines.
The Maute brothers, with the help of the Abu Sayyaf militants, attacked Marawi City in the southern Philippines in May 2017. The attack dragged on for five months, leaving more than 1,200 dead, including the Maute brothers.
The five-month fierce fighting also displaced thousands of residents and ruined displaced and reduced the city’s business district to rubble.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law in the entire Mindanao a few hours after the May 2017 attack.
Congress has granted Duterte’s three requests for martial law extension to quell the rebellion in the southern region. Martial law remains in the region until Dec. 31, 2019. – XINHUA