• Loot keeps Maute bandits in Marawi

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    A high-ranking government official disclosed that the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists who remain in war-torn Marawi City refuse to leave because of their massive loot.

    In an interview, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the government captured the “supposed loot” on video.

    “They have 70 bags of loot which is about P20 million per bag,” the source said.

    Earlier, the military reported that Maute fighters have collected a cache of gold necklaces, expensive watches and cash from the houses they looted in Marawi.

    Last June 5, security forces seized at least P79 million in cash and checks from a house occupied by the Maute fighters in Marawi.

    Authorities were still investigating who owns the money and if it was connected to terrorist activities.

    Meanwhile, during the new Mindanao Hour briefing in Malacañang on Friday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the Maute force is down to about 60 to 70 fighters confined in only three Marawi barangay (villages).

    “I would say the area is now constricted to three barangays, it’s about 700 x 700, that’s about 49 hectares. A little small from the – there are 96 barangays in Marawi, by the way, and we used to have the main battle area in 12 barangays,” Esperon told reporters.

    He added that President Rodrigo Duterte expressed optimism that the crisis would soon be over.

    “The President was able to give the commanders on the ground the way ahead, what he expects to do, what he expects of the troops but he is very positive that we will be able to take Marawi in a few more days and start right off with the reconstruction and rehabilitation,” he said.

    Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, after the Maute extremist group attacked Marawi City that left hundreds killed and thousands of families displaced.

    The death toll in the Marawi siege has risen to 571, as of July 20, including the 427 terrorists, 99 government troops, and 45 civilians.

    On Thursday, the President fulfilled his promise to visit the city amid the ongoing battle.

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