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Military gains control of Maute group’s lair in Butig, Lanao del Sur

Government forces have already taken control of the camp of armed group Maute in Butig, Lanao del Sur after days of military offensive, GMA News' Ian Cruz reported on Balitanghali on Tuesday.

The report said government troops overran the main camp of the armed group in Barangay Poktan, where the houses of Maute leaders, brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, are located.

Cruz said the Maute brothers' houses were destroyed as a result of bombing raids and shelling.

Soldiers also recovered ISIS headbands in Abdullah's residence, bolstering claims that the armed group is a sympathizer of the jihadist terrorist group wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.

Explosives and foxholes that once sheltered Maute followers were discovered in the Maute compound while the three-level watchtower in Barangay Ragayan that served as the group's first line of defense was riddled with bullet holes following the armed clashes.

The Ragayan Elementary School was also not spared from the clashes.

Now that victory is within reach, the military raised the Philippine flag inside the armed group's camp and a symbolic turnover of the flag was witnessed by soldiers and local officials.

After the symbolic gesture, the military turned over the control of the two barangays to the local government. 

Meanwhile, a military official maintained that the Maute group is a terrorist organization.

1st Army division chief Major Gen. Gerardo Barrientos tagged the Maute group in a series of violence, killings and bombings in Lanao del Sur, Marawi City and nearby provinces.

Barrientos also denied reports that the militants were being assisted by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who became disgruntled due to Congress' failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The BBL would have paved the way for the establishment of a new autonomous Bangsamoro political entity, replacing the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The military official said the MILF has been the government's partner in keeping the peace in Mindanao. 

Government troops are still hunting down Maute followers who escaped the clash site, the report said.

The clash between government soldiers and the Maute group began last February 20 after the militants raided a detachment of the 51st Infantry Battalion in Butig town.

Two thousand five hundred residents have left their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson of the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command, said that 24 rebels and three soldiers were killed in the operations. —Virgil Lopez/KG/ALG, GMA News