By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – The Philippine army has suspended operations against Daesh-affiliated militants in the country’s Muslim south for the holy month of Ramadan, local media reported Saturday.
GMA News quoted Col. Roseller Murillo, 103rd Infantry Brigade commander, as saying that troops would nonetheless remain on standby in Lanao del Sur province in case of any possible terror activities by the “Maute group” in Butig town.
“While we respect the Ramadan celebrations, if the local terrorists would do wrong, we would really implement the enforcement of the law,” he stressed.
He added that after the Muslim month of fasting, the military would focus on rehabilitation efforts in Butig so residents displaced by fighting between the militants and the military could return to their homes.
According to Murillo, unexploded improvised explosive devices and a flag similar to that used by Daesh were recovered from a camp used by the Maute group after the military overran it earlier this week, the Inquirer newspaper reported.
The camp previously belonged to the country’s one-time largest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is engaged in an ongoing peace process with the government and had abandoned the site in Butig.
Some other items with Daesh symbols, DVDs containing Daesh instructional videos and some MILF uniforms were reportedly also recovered at the camp.
Earlier this week, the military announced that 54 militants were killed in a series of clashes with the Maute group -- which has pledged allegiance to Daesh -- that also left two soldiers dead.
The dead reportedly included a son of a former MILF leader.
The MILF has denied supporting the group, conceding however that some members did have relatives in the outfit.
The military has blamed the Maute group for a series of kidnappings in Lanao province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and holds it responsible for the beheading of the two civilians -- sawmill workers -- in April.