3 Maute members killed, 2 surrendered in Lanao del Sur clash

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 24) — Three members of the ISIS-linked Maute group were killed while several other gunmen were wounded in clashes with government forces in Lanao del Sur on Thursday, the military said.

Three soldiers were also wounded in the firefight that broke out shortly after 8 a.m. in Sultan Dumalondong and dragged on intermittently through the day. The town is around 40 kilometers south of war-torn Marawi City, the battleground of soldiers and terrorists from May to October 2017.

Two members of the extremist group, including a minor, surrendered in Butig, Lanao del Sur at around 3 p.m., telling troops they feared they might be the next target of government forces' operation, a military statement said. They were identified as Hussein, 17, and Ashlani, 34.

"Takot kami na baka isunod na lang kami sa operation. Iniwan na lang kami ng mga leader pagkatapos nung encounter namin. Wala narin kami matakbuhan kaya sumuko nalang kami," the statement quoted Ashlani as saying

[Translation: We were afraid the next military operation would target us. Our leader left us after the encounter. We also had nowhere to run to so we just surrendered.]

Coronel Romeo Brawner of the 103rd Infantry Brigade earlier told CNN Philippines that the troops were fighting with remnants of the Maute group, estimated to be around 30.

Brawner said the encounter is part of the military's "deliberate operation" against remaining members of the group now led by the elusive "Abu Dar." He has a ₱6-million bounty on his head.

Brawner appealed to residents of Lanao del Sur to stay calm, saying evacuations are not necessary as there are enough troops to keep them safe.

"Nananawagan po kami sa mga taga Lanao del Sur. 'Wag po silang mag-panic, we have this under control," Brawner said.

In a statement later in the day, Brawner called on remaining Mauter fighters "to surrender peacefully to the nearest military installation before the next combat operations falls into your doorsteps."

Martial law remains in effect in the island region of Mindanao since the Maute group attacked Marawi City in May 2017. Congress has granted President Rodrigo Duterte's three requests for martial law extension to quell the rebellion in the region.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please refresh page for updates.