At least five soldiers were hurt in a firefight in Marawi City after alleged armed members of the Maute group took over a government hospital there.
Before that, the military launched an operation following information from residents that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was holed up with members of the Maute group in an apartment in the area.
"We checked it and it turned out that this is the core group of Maute. We launched a surgical operation to neutralize the group who is planning terrorism in Marawi City," said Lt. Col. Joar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army's 1st Infantry Division.
Herrera said five soldiers were hurt in the encounter.
PO1 Hadji Ismael, duty officer at the Lanao Provincial Police Office, said the incident on the hospital started around 2:30 p.m. when armed men attacked the Amai Pakpak Medical Center.
"Kinuha nila yung ospital dito," he said.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said a policeman, Senior Inspector Freddie Solar, was killed in the clash.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command, said the sympathizers of the armed group launched diversionary attacks to ease pressure on the core group.
Petinglay said the diversionary attacks included the firing of firearms near a hospital "though these are already contained."
"These are sympathizers who conducted the diversionary attacks to ease the pressure on the target area which is Barangay Basak where the high-value targets from Maute are situated," she said.
The Maute and Abu Sayyaf have an alliance and are both linked with Islamic State, a source of growing concern for President Rodrigo Duterte, who has warned of the expanding influence of the militants in the Philippines.
Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, provincial police director of Lanao del Sur, confirmed the firefight but was not able to give details yet.
A separate account from Ret. Col. Tatar Boriongan, Lanao Del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer (PDRMMO), said the clash erupted around 2 p.m. at the lower portion of the Mindanao State University Compound in Marawi City's Basak Malulut village as the Maute group engaged elements of the Philippine Army's First Tabak Division.
Boriongan added that even his own PDRRMO team could not mobilize itself because of reports that the Maute group has put up check points in the area.
Herrera, also the spokesperson of the First Tabak Division, said the army was conducting joint law enforcement operations with local police following reports that Hapilon was conducting community organization work in the town.
"But upon our arrival, we were welcomed with gunfire,” Herrera said.
Boriongan said the PDRRMO still working to get accurate information on any possible civilian casualties.
Security officials believe Hapilon and a handful of his men left Basilan for Lanao del Sur to get in touch with the Maute Group as part of an effort to establish a caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Both groups, as well as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), have pledged allegiance to ISIS. — With a report from Ferdh Cabrera and Reuters/RSJ/TJD/KBK, GMA News