Malabang, Lanao del Sur—Government airstrikes and ground offensives on lairs of extremists have triggered mass evacuations in 25 Lanao del Sur villages.
Exchanges of gunfire continued Tuesday as the military placed three towns under its control to guard against diversionary attacks by the extremists on civilians.
Lanao Sur Gov. Bedjoria Soraya Alonto-Adiong said field reports indicated that 5,450 people from 1,090 families have fled 25 barangays in Tubaran, Binidayan, and Pagayawan.
Alonto-Adiong ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to provide all necessary humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the fighting. She also directed the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office to prepare relief for distribution to the affected families.
As of Tuesday, the military had cleared only Tubaran and Binidayan for entry by volunteers for distribution of food and relief goods. Pagayawan remained under close military watch for possible diversionary offensives by extremists, field military commanders told locals and village officials.
Salma Jennie Alonto Tamano, provincial information office head, said civilians who had evacuated to town centers were mostly housed in school grounds, including Tubaran Elementary School; Tubaran National High School; Tangcal Madrasa and Tangcal Multi-Purpose Hall.
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint-Task Force Ranao, said remnants of the Maute terrorist group had apparently recruited new followers by using money and social media to get young people to believe they would be trained to become policemen.
He said five more original members of the ISIS-(Islamic State) inspired Maute group were slain in Sunday’s airstrikes and in follow-up ground forces offensives on Monday.
Brawner said the Maute group had generated plenty of money when they looted Marawi, and from ransom money in Abu Sayyaf kidnapping activities, and from vast financial resources of ISIS. Reports have also indicated that the Daesh, as the ISIS is also called, have oil fields under its control in war-torn Iraq and Syria.
Residents feared that displacement of civilians in Lanao del Sur could again become a humanitarian crisis.
Casamila Sedic, municipal social welfare development office of Tubaran, said nine villages of her town were affected—Wago, Guiarong Tubaran, Malaganding, Tubaran Proper, Madaya, Gaput, Dinaigan and Alog. About 500 families have already evacuated, Sedic said.