A hostage crisis in which at least 300 Muslim rebels stormed into a village school in the southern Philippines early Wednesday have been resolved after the militants retreated following a gunbattle with troops, reported news agency Reuters.
There are no reports of casualties, “It’s already resolved, they have withdrawn, they are no longer there. The school area is again safe,” said Brigadier General Restituto Padilla as reported by Reuters. Padded, however, told the military was investigating whether five civilians were still being held by the militants. He confirmed no children had been taken hostage in the incident.
After the terrorists raided the village of Malagakit in North Cotabato province at dawn, the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) positioned themselves in the school and engaged in a gunfight with government forces. Earlier, Police Chief Inspector Realan Mamon had 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.”
Brigadier Padilla said the attack was possibly intended to disrupt an ongoing military offensive against a separate group of militants aligned with the Islamic State group, adding the attack was an attempt to divert the military’s focus away from the militants. Pigcawayan is 190 km south of Marawi City, where BIFF militants, along with fighters from other groups allied to ISIS, have been holed up and fighting the Philippines military since May 23.