The military is continuing operations in Basilan against an Abu Sayyaf faction led by Isnilon Hapilon to prevent the terrorists from sending fighters to Marawi City and from launching diversionary attacks.
Hapilon is said to be the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forces in the Philippines and has linked up with the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group that has been holding out in Marawi in Lanao del Sur since May.
Security officials said they are guarding against sympathy attacks since Hapilon is believed to be trapped in Marawi's main battle area, which has slowly been shrinking as government forces retake key areas of the city.
Col. Juvymax Uy, commander of Joint Task Force Basilan, said troops have been conducting pursuit operations and combing the province's jungles for Hapilon's men.
He said the military is watching out for movements that could indicate Hapilon is returning or has returned.
“Preemptive action is continuously pursued to thwart that possibility,” Uy said.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command chief, said reports indicate that Hapilon is still in the main battle area in Marawi.
The Westmincom oversees operations to retake Marawi.
On Monday, security forces thwarted an attempt by Maute fighters to enter the main battle area through Lake Lanao, killing 10 militants. Galvez did not discount the possibility that the attempt may have been part of a plan to evacuate Hapilon and terrorist leaders Abdullah and Omar Maute, both of whom have been reported dead.
Authorities have yet to determine whether the brothers are really dead.