Firefight near MSU in Marawi ends; school reopens

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Updates with toll of dead gunmen and injured from military

Marawi City (CNN Philippines, August 22) — Two armed men were killed and four soldiers wounded on Tuesday in a two-hour firefight near the Mindanao State University (MSU) here, officials said.

The firefight in the town of Marantao began at around 5 a.m., and ended two hours later, the military's Joint Task Force Marawi said.

Major Tara Cuyco, chief of the public information office of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao said the incident began when the Marantao police informed the Lanao del Sur provincial police at 5 a.m. about bursts of fire heard in the area.

"Upon verification, they found out that the army detachment along the highway in front (of) the MPS was attacked by unidentified enemies," Cuyco said in the statement, referring to the Marantao Police Station. The police station is located inside the Marantao municipal hall compound, she added.

Officials organized police and a military tactical support platoon to provide reinforcement in Marantao. However, they were held at the Bacung checkpoint by the military "due to enemy forces waiting to ambush," Cuyco said. The troops then approached Marantao on foot.

Reinforcements from police and the Special Action Forces entered the municipal hall compound. 

"At the rooftop of municipal hall, the enemies are visible running in the opposite sector going to mountainous area that is being fired upon by the team," the statement added.

The military and PNP's Special Action Forces conducted clearing operations in the area. They recovered one rocket-propelled grenade, it said.

The identities and affiliation of the two armed men killed are still unknown. Four soldiers were wounded by shrapnel, while there were no injuries reported from the police, Cuyco said.

The firefight coincided with the first day of classes in MSU, which is three kilometers away from Marantao.

More than 8,000 students were expected to head to school in a symbolic show of the city returning to normalcy following almost three months of fighting between government troops and the ISIS-linked Maute group here.

Joint Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Colonel Romeo Brawner assured students and their parents it is safe to return to school.

Some 300 military troops have been deployed in and around the MSU campus, said Brawner.

Western Mindanao Command Spokesperson Captain Jo-ann Petinglay said there was no lockdown on campus, only tighter security measures.

Authorities have implemented tighter security upon entering Marawi City. At checkpoints, people going into the city are asked to disembark from their vehicles for a more thorough inspection.