AFP overruns extremists' camp in Lanao, 45 killed since fighting erupted

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Government troops in southern Philippines (file photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Government troops carried out clearing operations inside the main camp of a local terror group in Butig, Lanao del Sur on Friday (February 26) after the military occupied the extremists' headquarters the day before.

Colonel Noel Detoyato, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) public affairs office, said three bodies belonging to members of the Jemaah Islamiyah-affiliated Maute group were recovered — along with two M-16 rifles, one  rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and a homemade M-50 sniper rifle.

Detoyato recounted that the 103rd Infantry Brigade was able to advance to Maute group's main camp around 6 a.m. on Thursday (February 25) after a fierce gun battle with around 180 lawless elements.

The fighting was so intense that the military had to deploy mechanized units — including new remote-controlled armored personal carriers (APCs) — and air support units.

"It is an established camp with towers for snipers with concrete barriers. And it can house around 180," Detoyato described the enemy fortress.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said that based on reports, some 42 armed radicals had been killed so far since fighting began on Saturday (February 20).

On the military side, three soldiers had been killed while 11 had been wounded.

Related: MILF's Bravo denies hand in ambush which killed soldier

Tan added that although the area of conflict was near a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camp and controlled area, there was no connection between the two armed groups.

In fact, around 1,700 MILF fighters under Commander Bravo had to temporarily leave the area to avoid misencounters with the military.

Tan said the MILF was also helping displaced residents by putting up evacuation areas.

Also read: Relief goods needed as aerial bombing continues in Lanao del Sur town

Meanwhile, local social welfare officials said a total of 4,311 families, or 20,091 individuals, from five barangays had been displaced by the series of fighting.

Of this figure, 320 families or 1,600 individuals were staying at various evacuation sites while 3,991 families or 18,491 individuals had sought refuge with relatives in neighboring municipalities.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.