Philippines under IS siege; forces retrieve Pigcawayan school from militants

news
21 June 2017

Philippine forces today fought off Pro-Islamic State militants who stormed a school in the southern Philippines and held several students hostage. The militants who were holding students captive and using civilians as human shields withdraw after a fierce gun fight.

Police said about 300 armed men, among them members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), stormed the school early in the day.

'It's already resolved,' Padilla told a regular briefing. 'They've withdrawn, they are no longer there. The school area is again safe. The troops are in pursuit mode.'

Witnesses about a kilometre from the school said they could hear gunfire, with troops preventing anyone from getting closer.

Reports quoting a spokesman for the BIFF, said that the militants had taken civilians to a place safe from the crossfire, and did not intend to hold them hostage.

The spokesman said the incident at Pigcawayan was not related to the fighting in Marawi. 'This has come from a group that has long committed harassments,' he said.

Earlier, reports quoting police sources in Pigcawayan said civilians were trapped in the crossfire.

''We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities,'' reports said quoting a police officer.

Meanwhile, government forces continued air assaults against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City. An unspecified number of BIFF gunmen also raided the village of Malagakit in North Cotabato province at dawn today and engaged government forces in a firefight. Villagers have fled to safety.

Forces doubt the attack on the school may be an attempt to divert the military's focus away from the militants who have laid siege on southern Marawi city.





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