Intense fighting between Philippine troops and a little-known group apparently inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has killed 54 fighters in the country’s south, officials said.
Regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said on Monday that the operations against the Maute rebel group began last Thursday in southern Lanao del Sur province’s Butig town and were still continuing.
He said two soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in the clashes.
The military fired artillery and launched air strikes “to get the criminals” behind the beheading last month of two sawmill workers, Tan said.
He said the workers were forced to wear orange robes while being beheaded, like victims of ISIL, also known as ISIS. Four other sawmill workers were freed after their employers negotiated with the captors.
Troops have not retrieved the fighters’ bodies, but based the count on intelligence reports and on sightings of bodies being carried away by other rebels, Tan added.