Around 300 ISIS-linked militants stormed an elementary school in the restive southern Philippines on Wednesday. The militants took civilians as human shields as they engaged government troops in a gun-battle.
The militants also included the members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). They seized Malagakit Elementary School in the town of Pigcawayan as they were retreating from a nearby government outpost they had attacked, reported The Independent.
A local spokesperson for the military, Capt Arvin Encinas said, “The initial report is that they have 12 hostages of which six of them are students”.
The military said that the attackers took five civilians as a shield during their retreat. However, there were no casualties and no students were taken, hostage.
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A Manila-based spokesman for the military, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, called the attack “opportunistic,” suggesting that the group had struck now because the military was busy with Marawi.
He mentioned, “it’s already resolved. They have withdrawn, they are no longer there. The school area is again safe. The troops are in pursuit mode”.
The local residents around a kilometre said that they could hear the noise of gunfire.
Further, a spokesperson for the BIFF told Reuters that the militants had taken civilians to a safe place from the crossfire and did not intend to hold them hostage.
On Monday, the Philippine government included the Bangsamoro group on a list of 20 armed organisations said to be allied with the Islamic State, along with Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group.