Government troops killed in Marawi have reached 105 amid continued fighting against Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists in the war-torn city, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Saturday.
AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año confirmed the death toll as he took the floor of the joint session of Congress that extended extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesman for the AFP’s Joint Task Force Marawi, said the 100th fatality was an Army man killed during combat operations in Marawi.
Five more soldiers’ deaths were added to the tally at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Aside from the slain soldiers, 428 members of the Maute group were also killed, which resulted in the recovery of at least 526 firearms from the hands of the terrorists.
The number of civilian deaths remains at 45. A total of 1,723 civilians were rescued by military troops and non-government organizations.
Moreover, the number of barangay (villages) controlled by the Maute terrorists has decreased to three from four.
On Friday night, Herrera told reporters the village of Moncad, previously a stronghold of the Maute terrorists, was cleared three days before.
‘Marawi more difficult than Zambo siege’
Army 1st Lt. Kent Fagyan told the joint session of Congress on Saturday said that fighting in Marawi was more difficult than during the siege of Zamboanga City by rogue Moro rebels in September 2013.
But he said soldiers did not feel alone in fighting, and were grateful for the help and expressions of support from the public.
Fagyan, who was wounded on his right arm, was among the soldiers who confronted the Maute in Marawi.
“I was also in the Zamboanga siege when I was a platoon leader of the 44th Infantry Battalion. It was more difficult in Marawi…the houses there have third and fourth floors,” he said.
“In just giving us clothes, water, that is already a big help for us because in there, you cannot eat on time, sleep…because you always wake up. Shots are fired here and there from morning until the evening, almost 24 hours…especially during the first week,” he added.
Martial law extension a ‘challenge’
The AFP said the decision of the two chambers of Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of this year was an “acclamation” as well as a “challenge” for the military.
In a statement, AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said: “It is an acclamation of the sacrifices of every soldier, airman, sailor and marine who died or whose limbs were lost fighting or while supporting the fight to retake Marawi and liberate the hostages.”
with REINA TOLENTINO