TWO more soldiers of the Philippine Army and 13 Maute terrorists were killed on Friday in Marawi City after President Rodrigo Duterte predicted the end of fighting.
Col. Romeo Brawner of Joint Task Force Ranao said in a statement on Saturday the government death toll in the Marawi battle had risen to 155.
Brawner said 13 armed militants from the Maute group were also killed, increasing the toll of slain Maute rebels to 749.
“Despite yesterday’s casualties, today the government forces will fight harder to accomplish the following the soonest possible time so that the rehabilitation of Marawi can continue unhampered: rescue the remaining hostages, neutralize the Maute-ISIS terrorists, and regain control of the whole Marawi City,” Brawner said.
Duterte on Thursday said the conflict in Marawi would finally be over by September’s end, four months after Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists laid siege to the city.
He reiterated that there was no need for celebration, and assured the Maranao people of Marawi and the Lanao provinces that he would rebuild the Islamic City.
Fighting in Marawi City started on May 23 when military and police personnel tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf subleader Isnilon Hapilon, who was supposedly named “emir” of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
Government troops encountered stiff resistance from Islamist terrorists belonging to the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. This led Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.
The military has already missed three deadlines to retake the war-torn city.
Security officials originally aimed to finish their operations in Marawi City by June 2. However, this was not met as government troops continued to experience heavy resistance from Maute rebels entrenched in the city.
Duterte then said on June 4 that the Marawi siege would end in “about three days.”
After this, the military said it would seek to liberate the town on June 12, the 119th anniversary of Philippine independence from Spain. This goal was also not met as clashes persisted and casualties mounted. RJ CARBONELL