Rebels attack Philippine village, possibly to divert troops

by Abel Hampton June 22, 2017, 1:45

Padilla said gunmen engaged in skirmishes throughout the day in and around Pigkawayan, while others occupied the school and using civilians seized from neighbouring homes as human shields.

"Definitely, they are holding hostages, that's why our soldiers are having difficulty because they are using them as human shields", Encinas said.

Padilla earlier reported that the rebels have withdrawn from the school after reinforcement troops arrived in Malagakit, but later said troops reported that rebels were still holed up in the low-slung building and that other withdrawing insurgents returned after being blocked by troops nearby.

He said the local police, as of 9 a.m., had yet to receive reports on the number of casualties.

The rebels may have taken advantage of a massive military offensive against militants aligned with the Islamic State group who have laid siege to the southern city of Marawi, and plotted to attack military targets elsewhere, Brig. Militant spokesman Abu Misry Mamah acknowledged in a radio interview that his group staged the attack but said they did not intend to take hostages.

He said they also implemented checkpoints, curfew, security of vital installations and critical infrastructures, seaports, airports and the land transportation terminals in coordination with various stakeholders and law enforcement agencies to ensure the public's welfare and security. The fleeing gunmen reportedly rigged some areas of the school with homemade bombs, Alcarioto said, citing statements by some of the freed captives.

"I hope this will be resolved peacefully and I hope there will be negotiations for the sake of the people they are holding hostage", he said on the local GMA television network.

MANILA Islamist militants who stormed a primary school in a southern Philippines town on Wednesday have fled, leaving behind 31 hostages unharmed, including 12 children, a spokesman for the military said. "This has come from a group that has long committed harassments", he said.

Muslim rebels have been fighting for more than four decades for an independent or autonomous region in the south of the mainly Catholic nation, with the conflict claiming more than 120,000 lives.

The latest attack took place as government forces continue to wind down operations against Maute fighters in Marawi City.

Both Pigcawayan and Marawi are on the large southern island of Mindanao.

The military has said foreign fighters, including those from Chechnya, Indonesia and Malaysia, have also joined the Marawi conflict. Padilla later said only 50 militants were involved.

The attack has sparked fears that ISIS, while losing territory in Syria and Iraq, may be gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia.

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