CAMP SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao, May 23 – Fierce clashes erupted Tuesday afternoon between government forces and members of the Maute terror group, with the military conducting air strikes.
The fighting reportedly sent thousands of residents fleeing while others were locked inside their homes. It happened about two days before the start of the fasting month of Ramadhan.
Marawi City is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Police said the fighting erupted in the villages of Caloocan and Basak Malutlut, near the Lanao del Sur police provincial command and Mindanao State University.
In a phone interview, Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, Lanao del Sur police provincial director, said the clashes erupted between the Maute group and government forces at about 3 p.m. when a military-backed police team was to serve search warrants against members of the terror group.
Fighting erupted when the Maute group opened fire on personnel from the military’s 103rd Brigade, he said.
Chief Supt. Reuben Sindac, PNP-ARMM regional director based here, said all police units across Lanao del Sur have been placed on heightened alert against the possible spillover of the fighting.
Armored personnel carriers backed the ground troops in fighting the still undetermined number of Maute Group members, Nantes said.
As of 4 p.m., two Air Force planes dropped several bombs in selected areas of Marawi City, particularly in the border with Lanao del Sur beside Lake Lanao.
Sporadic gun shots could still be heard in the heart of Marawi City, according to Zia Alonto Adiong, an ARMM lawmaker and a resident of Marawi City.
He appealed for residents to stay home.
The clashes erupted while Muslims are preparing to start the fasting month, which is expected to begin this Friday with the possible sighting of the moon on Thursday night.
There was no reported casualties as of posting time.