Digong’s advance party bombed in Marawi City

NINE members of the advance party of President Rodrigo Duterte — seven from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and two army escorts — were wounded after two powerful improvised explosive device (IED) allegedly hit the convoy of the elite security group in an ambush while heading to Marawi City yesterday morning.

Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano told TIMES that the PSG agents under Sr. Insp. Robert Pintal and the army escorts from the 1st Infantry Division came from Iligan City and were on their way to the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City

Upon reaching Barangay Punod at around 10:20 a.m., they were ambushed by armed men. Two simultaneous explosions hit the leading vehicle followed by a volume of gunfire that wounded the seven troopers.

The injured troopers were only identified as certain Capt. Zamora, S/Sgt. Damaso, Sgt. Garcia, Cpls. Inova and De Leon and PFCs Gonzales and Paniza of the PSG and army escorts Cpls. Galentis and Corpus.

Two victims — one PSG agent and one army soldier — sustained serious injuries and were immediately airlifted by a Presidential chopper to the Fourth Infantry Division headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City, while the others were transferred to a nearby hospital.

The injured agents were part of the presidential convoy with around 50 persons. Some of those in the convoy were staff of the Radio TV Malacanang (RTVM).

The advance party was preparing for the scheduled visit of President Rodrigo Duterte in the province on Wednesday.

Maj. Filemon Tan, the spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said they could not speculate who are the group behind the attack but they are looking into the lawless elements or the Maute Group, an Islamist terrorist group in Mindanao, as the possible perpetrator of the incident.

But Col. Gene Ponio, deputy brigade commander of the 103rd Brigade, said the ambush may be a diversionary tactic by the Maute Group, which is facing an intense military offensive after a siege in Butig town in Lanao del Sur last week.

President Duterte said he will push through with his scheduled visit to Lanao del Sur today despite advice for him to cancel his trip in light of the attack.

In his speech yesterday afternoon at the inauguration of the mega drug rehabilitation in Luzon, Duterte said he will keep on with his scheduled visit and would take the same route taken by his advance security details.

Duterte said that if it is his time to go, he sees no problem with that considering that Vice President Leni Robredo is ready to replace him as president.

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