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Islamist militants storm school in southern Philippines, take students hostages

23 Juin 2017

In a text message, DepEd 12 spokesperson Antonio Maganto said classes were suspended in two elementary schools in Barangay Rapacon and Malingao in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Armed forces spokesman Restituto Padilla said the attackers at Pikgawayan belonged to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), one of four groups in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao that have pledged allegiance to IS.

Birrey said, however, that the siege was over as troops from the 34 Infantry Division of the Philippine Army pursued the bandits.

Damaged buildings and houses are seen as government forces continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi city, Philippines June 22, 2017.

Hundreds of gunmen initially attacked a lightly guarded military outpost at dawn, with about 30 then taking over the school and using civilians as human shields, the military said.

He said they would be freed in due time.

Mashod Hadji Ibrahim Salik, a volunteer of the local Ceasefire Watch, said his group has received reports that the attackers had killed eight civilians and burned down the school before withdrawing but this information could not be confirmed. "The school area is safe again", Padilla said.

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MANILA Islamist militants who stormed a primary school in a southern Philippines town on Wednesday have fled, leaving behind 31 hostages unharmed, including 12 children, a spokesman for the military said.

The group is separate from the Islamic State-allied militants who have been fighting government forces for nearly a month in Marawi City, more than 80 kilometres away from Pigcawayan.

Last month, about 500 militants laid siege on Marawi, a mosque-dotted centre of the Islamic faith in the country's south, after a failed attempt by government forces to capture a top militant suspect. Villagers have fled to safety.

The U.S. military in recent weeks deployed a P3 Orion aircraft to provide surveillance for troops battling more than 100 gunmen holding an unspecified number of hostages in Marawi. President Rodrigo Duterte, despite having an antagonistic stance toward USA security policies, has acknowledged the US assistance is helping save lives, as he faces his most serious crisis in his yearlong presidency.

The attack has sparked fears that the Islamic State group, while losing territory in Syria and Iraq, may be gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia.

Duterte declared martial law in the entire Mindanao region to deal with the Marawi crisis.

Islamist militants storm school in southern Philippines, take students hostages