By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
Thousands of families have fled their homes in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur following military operations against militants of the Maute group led by the alleged new emir of Daesh in Southeast Asia.
Joint Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Col. Romeo Brawner said Thursday that local officials have contributed to
Clashes erupted Sunday, days after the military launched intelligence operations to hunt down Abu Dar and around 50 other remnants of the Maute group – the militant group that launched a five-month-long siege in the southern Philippines’ Marawi City last year.
Government forces carried out airstrikes in mountainous areas of the province, prompting the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents from seven towns, according to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
Brawner earlier this week revealed that troops had captured the group’s campsite.
“We found their bunkers. They had towers, foxholes, empty shells and a cache of ammunition,” he said as quoted by ABS-CBN News.
The Maute group -- which lost nearly 1,000 of its members in the Marawi siege, including 13 foreigners -- has a few remaining fighters but has doubled its efforts in recruiting and reorganizing the group with their loot from Marawi and funding from other Daesh allies, added Brawner.
Meanwhile, Brawner said over 20 Maute militants who had mixed in with evacuees and pretended to be residents evacuating at the height of the encounters surrendered Thursday in Marawi City.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23 last year placed the southern Philippines under martial law following the attack by Daesh terrorists, who hoisted black flags as part of a bid to establish an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia.
Military rule has been extended by