ZAMBOANGA CITY: The number of military casualties continue to mount as security forces battle local Islamin State (IS)-style terrorists for nearly three months after they occupied Marawi City.
Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said some 122 soldiers have died since fighting broke out on May 23 that also killed 45 civilians. It said 539 militants were allegedly slain, but most of the reports came from unverified intelligence sources and not based from bodies recovered in the battlefield.
Petinglay did not disclose the total number of soldiers wounded in the fighting despite efforts to get the information from her, but security sources said more than 1,000 soldiers had been injured in fierce clashes with the terrorists. Troops had rescued over 1,700 civilians – including four men, three of them from Zamboanga City and other a native of Iligan City, who recently escaped from the Maute Group – in the besieged city since fighting began, according to military reports.
Security officials have repeatedly said about five dozens militants are still fighting troops in Marawi despite heavy aerial bombings and Army artillery fire on their hideouts.
Petinglay said troops were getting closer to the IS-inspired group which is holding dozens of civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest. “Fighting continue in about a square kilometer general area where the terrorists are currently held up. It is also believed that there are still hostages with the group numbering to an estimated 50 to 70 people,” she said.
Soldiers also occupied a fortified building previously under IS control and recovered an abandoned armored car used by militants. “The building where it was found was believed used by the terrorists as a storage area and temporary base that houses most of their wounded. Found also in the building is a tunnel where the Maute remnants store their food, bullets, and weapons,” Petinglay added.
“The recent capture of one of the terrorist’s strongholds connotes that the troops are advancing towards the battle positions of Maute remnants, signifying that the terrorists are already contained in a narrower engagement area,” she pointed out.