A SOLDIER and two members of a local Islamic State-inspired group died in clashes in two Maguindanao towns on March 2, the military reported on Tuesday. “The operation was launched in response to a report from the communities regarding the presence of the armed group,” Major Gen. Diosdado C. Carreon, commander of the Joint Task Force Central, said in a statement from the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom). Government forces started with air and artillery assets against members of an extremist group led by Salahudin Hassan, then deployed ground troops in Barangay Salman in the town of Ampatuan. The ensuing clash left two members of the terror group dead and two soldiers wounded, one of whom died while being airlifted to hospital, WestMinCom said. Another gunfight took place in neighboring Datu Hoffer town, where military forces set up a blocking operation. Another soldier was wounded. “We will continue the momentum and sustain our gains on this operation in order to safeguard the civilians and put an end to this threat of society,” said Col. Jose H. Narciso, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade. The recovered bodies of the Hassan followers were turned over to the Maguindanao police for identification.