About 300 pro-ISIS militants on Wednesday stormed a school in the southern Philippines and are holding students hostage, Reuters reported.
Philippine officials say Muslim rebels are engaging troops in a gunbattle in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato in an attack that may be an attempt to divert the military's focus away from the militants who have laid siege on southern Marawi city.
Police Chief Inspector Realan Mamon tells The Associated Press by telephone that gunmen belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters raided the village of Malagakit in North Cotabato province at dawn Wednesday and engaged government forces in a firefight. Villagers have fled to safety.
"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," Mamon told Reuters.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla says the gunmen targeted a patrol base of pro-government militiamen and the attack maybe an effort by the militants to divert troop focus on the Marawi offensive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report