Philippine troops have launched airstrikes and ground assaults that reportedly wounded one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted terror suspects who is trying to establish a new base for an alliance backing the Islamic State group.
Intelligence reports showed initial assaults killed at least four militants, possibly including a Malaysian, and reportedly wounded the main target, Isnilon Hapilon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
He said Hapilon apparently managed to flee from an encampment in the mountainous hinterlands of Butig town in southern Lanao del Sur province.
“Army troops are still in hot pursuit,” Lorenzana said.
Airstrikes targeted Hapilon’s group on Wednesday and Thursday. Hundreds of troops, backed by artillery fire, then began pursuing him and other militants from the so-called Maute group in Butig, military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said.
Hapilon, who is on the US Department of Justice list of most-wanted terrorists worldwide with up to $US5 million bounty for his capture, moved to Butig from his stronghold on southern Basilan island a month ago to look for a base for his new militant alliance.
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