• Govt death toll in Marawi rises to 82

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    THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Friday nearly seven dozen military and police personnel have died amid fighting in Marawi City, adding seven more to the death toll.

    Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said seven more soldiers were killed in the armed conflict in Marawi City, bringing the government death toll to 82 as of 6 p.m. on Thursday.

    Padilla declined to go into details, saying only that the battle was still ongoing with Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group terrorists, and that the incident was part of the military’s “operational matters.”

    Earlier, the military spokesman said government troops were having difficulties in Marawi’s urban terrain.

    Aside from the government casualties, at least 303 terrorists have been killed and 382 firearms seized by the military and police.

    Fighting also claimed the lives of a total of 44 civilians, include the 17 people said to have been executed by the Maute group and whose remains were reported to have been recovered on Wednesday.

    The Maute men, along with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, led the attack on Marawi City last May 23 in what the government claims was an attempt to turn the Muslim-majority city into an IS province.

    The attack forced President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law.

    Last weekend, a unilateral truce was declared by the military in observance of Eid’l Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, with an eight-man group led by religious leaders going to “ground zero” to negotiate with the Maute to release the hostages, which include Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob.

    Based on reports, the terrorists told the negotiators they would free Suganob in exchange for the freedom of the parents of the Maute brothers, Farhana and Cayamora, who were arrested in separate operations by police and military men.

    Military officials rejected the offer.

    “We wish to reiterate that Government’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists remains. Hence, any demands made inside Marawi hold no basis,” Padilla said in a statement.

    “Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of the offense of all these terrorists and their supporters is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions,” Padilla continued.

    The Cagayan de Oro City Police Office on Friday held one suspected terrorist identified as Jerusalem Runeje, 29.

    Authorities said Runeje admitted to being a member of the Abu Sayyaf group and confirmed that his photograph was among those included in posters of wanted terrorists.

    “However, further validation and verification [with]other [intelligence agencies]are still ongoing,” a police report said.

    Padilla said it would pursue its offensive against the Maute members, amid consultations between national agencies in preparation for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding of Marawi City once fighting ends.

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