Philippine troops captured an Muslim militant training camp after a 10-day battle, as part of operations to clear insurgents from a remote jungle region, officials said.
The offensive against the Maute group, one of several Filipino Muslim armed organizations that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, left four soldiers dead and 15 others wounded, a Philippine military commander told a reporter.
Surrounded by swamps and a lowland tropical rainforest in the small, Muslim-populated farming town of Butig, more than 800km south of Manila, the camp’s structures were riddled with large bullet holes that soldiers said were caused by machine-gun fire used to flush out the militants.
Soldiers said they killed dozens of militants, but there was no sign of dead bodies when the military allowed journalists into the area on Friday.
Unexploded improvised explosive devices, a grenade launcher, a rebel uniform and a black Islamic State group flag were all that were left in the wooden huts and concrete-reinforced trenches, which were used by the militants, army Colonel Roseller Murillo said.
“The Maute group is believed to be on the run and in hiding, [but] the military will fully enforce the law if they initiate other terrorist activities in the area,” Murillo said.
The offensive was launched after the militants moved back into territory that the military secured during clashes in February, they said.
Once described by the military as a small-time extortion gang, the Maute group attacked a remote army outpost in Butig in February, triggering a week of fighting that the military said left six soldiers and at least 12 militants dead.
The group, believed to have fewer than 100 fighters, in April blew up power transmission towers, and abducted and beheaded two employees of a local sawmill.
Murillo said the latest military offensive began on May 24, with the fighting displacing about 2,000 residents.
The southern Philippines has been plagued by a Muslim separatist insurgency for more than four decades, with the conflict leaving more than 120,000 people dead.
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