MARAWI / ILIGIAN / PHILIPPINES — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday that government troops have greatly diminished the number of Maute Group terrorists with the killing of 191 of its members while isolating them in only four villages of Marawi City. Continued fighting has raised the death toll to 221.
Twenty days after the Islamic State-influenced Maute militants, backed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), laid siege on Marawi, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año said: “They are currently isolated in four barangays of Marawi City. We sealed off the exits. Its just a matter of time before we clear the area of the Maute Group.”
Both speaking at a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro City, Lorenzana and Año expressed confidence in overcoming the challenge and resistance posed by Maute terrorists isolated in Marawi.
Apart from those killed, there is a still undetermined number of terrorists wounded, said Lorenzana. He said 154 firearms were seized by government security forces, including 50 Caliber machine guns, M60 machine guns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, and thousands of ammunitions among others at various battle sites.
He lamented that a total of 20 civilians have been killed, but was quick to point out that military and police assisting government and non-government organizations have saved 1,613 helpless civilians and brought them to safer ground.
This figure includes the recent rescue from the rubbles of war three iconic Maranao octogenarians – Retired Regional Trial Court Judge Pukumu, Pundogar, Engr. Mama Mangorangca and erstwhile Moro fighter Meno Manabilang.
They were rescued from their abodes in war-torn suburbs in Marawi last week, according to Zia Alonto Adiong and the Ranaw Response Team (RRT).
In Davao City, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) reported that there were still around 1,379 civilians trapped inside Marawi.
The ARMM-HEART team said that the trapped civilians were noted as of last week, June 8.
The team said the trapped civilians remain vulnerable to attacks from both the terror groups and government troops.
Yesterday, the AFP said that Peace Corridor volunteers from government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rescued four more civilians trapped in the conflict area.
The civilians include three Maranaos, and one Christian. They were retrieved in Bangolo area in coordination with military units under Gen. Carlito Galvez, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
The four were immediately processed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for their identities.
Lorenzana said despite the accomplishments, the recalcitrant remnants of the Maute-ISIS continue their stiff resistance while holed up in fortified buildings and structures.
“They are employing hostile sniper fires, mortar fire, tank rounds and IEDs to kill anyone – from government security forces, to relief and rescue workers, to civilians – who get in the way of their fanatical desire to dismember Marawi from the Philippines and establish it as a “Wilayat” or an Isis province in this part of Asia,” Lorenzana said..
Lorenzana, however, assured that the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) will continue to break the heavy resistance of and clear Marawi from the Maute-ISIS group, restore normalcy in the city, and make way for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.
Año appealed to the public for understanding especially those criticizing the AFP for its alleged slow pace in taking over the city.
“We hope you understand the situation.We gaiining and winning this endeavor. Kaunting pasensya na lang (please have patience),” he said.
“We are pushing hard despite losing our men. We have enough forces on the ground. Hindi magtatagumpay ang Maute forces (The Maute forces won’t succeed),” he added.
Meanwhile, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said that many adjustments have to be make with regard to operations as a result of the death of 13 Marines during heavy fighting last Friday.
“There will be many adjustments made. Our losses are because we put premium on saving more civilian lives and complete respect for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights” Padilla said.
Malacañang yesterday mourned the heavy government casualties but said the unfortunate incident has not weakened its resolve to put an end to the Marawi conflict.
“The Palace is deeply saddened by the news on the 13 Marines killed in action during a firefight in Marawi City. They fought gallantly for the liberation of our Maranao brothers and sisters,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said. “This incident, albeit unfortunate, gives us greater impetus to clear Marawi of lawless elements, save the trapped civilians, and restore order, security, and normalcy to the city and its residents,” he said.
Abella likewise called on the public to continue to rally behind the troops combatting the armed groups in Marawi. “Let us continue showing our strong support to our courageous and heroic men and women in uniform fighting for Marawi and defending the Republic,” he said.
Earlier, Duterte said the Filipino nation is “forever grateful” to the brave government forces keeping the country safe and strong. “The country and people are forever grateful to our brave soldiers who left their families and the comforts of their homes to defend our sovereignty and uphold the Constitution,” the President said before an assembly of soldiers in Sultan Kudarat.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be providing a one-time financial assistance worth P1,000 to each family displaced by the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
As of 6 a.m. Sunday, 55,149 families or 266,092 persons have been displaced in the Marawi clash. Of those displaced, 4,105 families or 19,907 persons are staying in 71 evacuation centers.
Meanwhile, 49,525 families or 238,886 individuals are outside the evacuation centers and opted to stay with relatives or friends.
Through the DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations, the displaced families would receive P1,000 each for their purchase of food during the observance of Ramadan.
Source: Manila Bulletin