Suspected Islamic militants attack police station, military unit in Maguindanao town

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Photo courtesy: 6ID Public Affairs Office

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 4) — Dozens of suspected Islamic militants attacked a police station and military unit in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao on Thursday night, burning a police car before scampering away, military officials confirmed to CNN Philippines.

Lt. Col. Anhouvic Atilano, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Battalion, recounted that some 50 suspected members of local terror group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Dawlah Islamiyah conducted two simultaneous strikes around 10:30 p.m.

Atilano said the group created the commotion in the military detachment to prevent troops from responding to the attack and "harassment" in the police station in Poblacion. Despite the diversion, troops arrived at the police station, engaging the militants and forcing them to scurry away. On their way out, the gunmen burned a police patrol car outside the municipal police station.

"Based doon sa na-engage natin tropa na nasa detachment, patrol base, 'yung pumasok dito sa Poblacion ay more or less 30. Ang nag-harrass naman sa headquarters ng Charlie Company natin, more or less 20. So, more or less mga 50 sila," Atilano told CNN Philippines on Friday.

[Translation: We engaged with more or less 30 people in the detachment and patrol base. More or less 20 people harassed the Charlie Company headquarters. So a total of 50, more or less.]

Atilano said that based on their initial investigation, the BIFF and Dawlah Islamiyah members were targeting the chief of police. But he said they will continue to look into the angle of a terrorist attack.

The military officer said there were no casualties recorded. He said the only damaged property was the police patrol car, denying earlier reports a nearby church and school were burned down.

He said they are tracking down the two main leaders of the armed men. He assured authorities are on top of the situation, saying they have increased the number of security forces to guard the area.

"Nais po nating iparating sa lahat ng mamamayan dito sa Datu Piang at sa karatig na mga munisipyo ng Maguindanao na ang Datu Piang po ay safe na," he said.

[Translation: We want to tell the residents in Datu Piang and nearby areas that it's already safe.]

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are conducting a joint investigation into the "isolated" incident. the Western Mindanao Command said.

Another Marawi siege?

The attack in Datu Piang was nothing like the 2017 siege in Marawi that killed a total of 1,000 militants, soldiers, and civilians in its wake, AFP chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said.

"Even another Marawi is highly improbable at this point in time because they have already learned their lessons of Marawi and we can consider what happened in Datu Piang as an isolated case," he told a media briefing. "It's really far from another Marawi incident."

ISIS-inspired fighters from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups laid siege to Marawi on May 23, 2017. The battle between government forces and the local terror groups, which lasted for five months, resulted in mass displacement of residents and left the Islamic city in ruins.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.