Duterte aides hurt in Marawi ambush ahead of presidential trip

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Seven personnel of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and two soldiers were wounded in an ambush in Lanao del Sur on Tuesday, November 29.

The ambush occurred at around 10:30 am, when an improvised explosive device detonated as the PSG members and military personnel were on their way to Marawi City, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.

The convoy, Padilla said, was composed of PSG personnel, members of Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) and the Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO), and local troop escorts. They were part of the advance party for President Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to visit Lanao del Sur on Wednesday, November 30, to raise the morale of troops fighting the Maute terrorist group.

"Most were slightly injured except for one PSG member who sustained serious injuries," Padilla said in a text message to media.

The PSG member is said to be in critical condition, according to Salma Jayna Tamano, Lanao del Sur information officer.

"A presidential chopper immediately airlifted the seriously injured and 4 others to an undisclosed medical facility for emergency care," Padilla said.

They were airlifted to Cagayan de Oro City, according to PSG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aquino.

Aquino said that the PSG could not say yet if the attack specifically targeted the President, or if it were a result of ongoing security-related operations in the area.

Marawi City information officer Alexander Alag said the ambush happened at the checkpoint barricade upon entering the arc of the city, which was manned by the Army.

Military troops are engaged in an offensive to take back control of Butig town in Lanao del Sur, which is currently being held by the Maute terror group. The President plans to visit troops fighting there.

Aquino said they will still determine how the incident will affect Duterte's trip, but he assured the public that the PSG members are well-trained and prepared to ensure the Chief Executive's safety.

"Tight talaga ang security natin, kahit saan tayo magpunta, hindi naman tayo nagpapabaya, talagang alert tayo, naka-alert tayo palagi at saka 'yung mga tropa natin, trained talaga iyan, maganda rin ang mga training ng tropa natin," he said.

(Our security is really tight everywhere we go. We don't let anything slip past us, we're always on alert. Our men are really trained, and their training is good.) – with reports from Carmela Fonbuena, Bobby Lagsa, and Pia Ranada / Rappler.com