By MASIDING NOOR YAHYA and ASA T. MADALE
January 25, 2019
CAMPO RANAO, Marawi City: Troops from the 103rd “Haribon” Infantry Brigade have seized a terrorist stronghold in the hinterlands of Sultan Dumalondong, Lanao del Sur on Friday, sending the remnants to scamper for survival.
The 55th “Vigilant” Infantry Battalion figured with more or less 26 Dawlah Islamiyah (DI)-Lanao remnants also known as Maute-Islamic State (Maute-IS) in an intense gunfight as they approached the terrorists’ lair at around 8am yesterday.
Sultan Dumalondong lies about 50kms from Marawi City.
The group is led by Owayda Benito Marohombsar, alias Abu Dar, the appointed leader of DI Lanao Group and alleged successor of Isnilon Hapilon as the IS emir in Southeast Asia.
The initial assault lasted for about 10 hours until the beleaguered terrorists consolidated to their defensive strong points.
“We acted on the information as reported by the residents and the local chief executives,” noted Lt Col Ian Ignes, Commanding Officer of the 55IB.
“The enemy was completely taken by surprise as evident from the direction of their initial gunfire. We met fierce resistance as soon as we hit their final defensive lines,” he added.
The group has been hiding in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur where they are well versed of the terrain.
“Despite the enemy’s advantages over the terrain, our troops were able to gain ground and managed to penetrate their defensive lines through timely and accurate supporting fires,” said Col. Romeo Brawner. Jr, 103rd Brigade commander who is leading the assault since Wednesday night.
Immediate fire support was provided by the Philippine Air Force to support the military operations against the terrorists through artillery and helicopters, sending the DI-Lanao remnants into their bunkers.
The splintered group then scattered for survival, abandoning their stronghold due to the intense ground and air attacks.
Exploitation of the site revealed several defensive positions to include running trenches and fortified bunkers. A training camp was also found some hundred meters from the terrorists’ defensive lines.
Initial reports from the ground confirmed three DI-Lanao member were killed during the assault, with more critically wounded, according to local sources. Three government troops were slightly injured.
POPULAR SUPPORT, A CRITICAL FACTOR
After the failed attempt of Maute-IS to establish a caliphate in Lanao del Sur, the military claims that communities around Lake Lanao have been awaken on the repercussions of violent extremism.
“Social condition on ground shows great despise to the terrorists. After massive information dissemination, people are now aware on the destruction brought by these violent extremists. Communities now willingly give out information to government troops to rid their communities of terrorists,” according to Brawner.
“With the support we are receiving from the populace, we are moving forward to liberate communities of the DI- Lanao remnants, he added.
NO LET UP IN MILITARY OPERATIONS
With indicators that the fragmented group is no longer capable of mounting large-scale attacks, the military believes that the group is still capable of conducting spoiling attack to resound their faltering group.
“Despite their losses, we are not discounting the possibility of spoiling attacks in retaliation to our latest exploit. We expect the terrorists to attack indiscriminately, targeting Muslims and Christians communities alike,” Brawner remarked.
Brawner believes that sustained military operations — both combat and civil-military — will be a cornerstone in his campaign against the DI-Lanao remnants.
“We will weaken their will to fight either through lethal or non-lethal means. We will take them out of their comfort zones until they have no other option but to die or return to the folds of the law,” Brawner stated.
“We are a determined force. Together with our fellow Meranaos, we will serve justice to the people who destroyed Marawi City,” the 103rd Brigade commander stressed. (RSP)