IS militants hold children hostage after storming school in southern Philippines

Members of the Philippine police special action force ride in an army truck on their way to the frontline in Marawi CREDIT: AFP

Pro-Islamic State militants stormed a town in the southern Philippines early on Wednesday and are holding several students hostage.

The attack happened on the same island where fighting between government troops and Islamist militants has entered its fifth week.

About 300 armed men, including members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), launched the attack on a school in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato province on Mindanao island and were holding some students captive, police said.

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Members of the BIFF were engaged in a gunbattle with the military, Chief Inspector Realan Mamon, the police chief of Pigcawayan town, said.

“We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities,” Mamon said.

liseo Garcesa, mayor of Pigcawayan town, told Philippine radio he was still seeking information about possible casualties.

Pigcawayan is 120 miles south of Marawi City, where BIFF militants, along with fighters from other groups allied to the Islamic State group, have been holed up and fighting the Philippines military.

Nearly 350 people have been killed in the month of fighting, according to an official count.

Philippine aircraft and troops launched a renewed push against the militants in Marawi City on Tuesday and a military spokesman said the aim was to clear the area by the weekend Eid festival, although there was no deadline.

The seizure of Marawi and the dogged fight to regain control of it has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear Islamic State – on a backfoot in Iraq and Syria – is trying to set up a stronghold in the Muslim south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines that could threaten the whole region. – Telegraph

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