Philippine officials said in a statement that 300 pro-ISIS militants have stormed a school in the Southern Philippines and taken students hostage, Fox News reports.
Muslim rebels are currently engaging troops in a gunfight in the Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato. Officials believe the attack is a possible diversion to distract the military’s engagement in the southern city of Marawi.
“We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities,” Police Chief Inspector Realan Mamon told the Associated Press.
Mamon also stated that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters raided military targets and engaged soldiers in battle. Civilians were able to flee the scene.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla says the gunmen targeted a patrol base of pro-government militiamen.
The news follows deployments of special operation soldiers by the U.S. to the country in order to provide non-combat assistance to Filipino troops.