COTABATO CITY – Unidentified gunmen allegedly ambushed a police vehicle transporting four prisoners who ISIS fighters captured in Lanao del Norte province in southern Philippines, reports said Sunday.
It said the attack, which occurred late Saturday, also left one police officer injured near the town of Baloi. The prisoners were being transported to Cagayan de Oro City for interrogation when gunmen attacked their vehicle. Three of those killed were identified as Julkipli Maute, Ala Saba and Alan Sulayman.
It was unknown why police decided to bring the prisoners at night despite intense fighting in nearby Marawi where ISIS fighters who are members of the Maute group occupied the city on May 23.
The four prisoners allegedly took part in the siege, however, it was unclear how they managed to escape from a massive military assault that flattened many structures in Marawi.
U.S. Special Forces were also deployed near the city to assist local troops in fighting ISIS after Manila sought assistance from Washington. The local ISIS is still holding at least 240 civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest Chito Suganob.
The U.S. Embassy did not give details as to the extent of the involvement of American soldiers in the fighting, but a P3 Orion spy plane was also spotted flying over the city. A group of Americans in civilian clothes was seen by journalists in the area, although it was not immediately known whether they are soldiers or military contractors. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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