• Marawi residents may not yet return

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    Operations to take 1 more month – military

    COTABATO CITY: The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said on Wednesday evacuees from Marawi City will not be able to return home for at least another month as dozens of Maute terrorists remain in the city and a number of areas still needed to be cleared of explosives.

    EXPLOSIVE LESSON A Swiss Foundation for Mine Action volunteer speaks to displaced children on the dangers of bombs and unexploded ordnance at an evacuation center in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte province in Mindanao on July 26, as they prepare the children and their families for their eventual return to their homes. Fighting in Marawi has left 460 militants, 109 soldiers and police, and 45 civilians dead, while nearly 400,000 residents of Marawi and nearby areas have fled. AFP PHOTOS

    Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, Westmincom spokesman, said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., the Westmincom chief and Brig. Gen. Joselito Bautista have not yet given the green light for the return of Marawi residents to their homes, as clearing operations en by ground commanders in Marawi about two weeks ago, that there were still 80 to 100 Maute members in the battle zone.

    “Because of the ongoing operations, there might be less [of the Maute members],” Padilla told reporters.

    A battalion of Scout Rangers was able to recover at least one kilo of shabu from a building used by the Maute terrorists.

    “This shows that our enemies, to keep themselves alert all the time, to be awake in the night, are using illegal drugs,” he noted.

    He also cautioned against allowing evacuees to return home, saying civilians and government troops could still be hit by the Maute snipers’ bullets from tall structures in Marawi.

    Padilla said a group of civilians led by a “Mrs. Simara” and one alias Bin Laden, a local politician, were asked by ground commanders not to flee from evacuation centers and go into the battle area.

    “The risk of being hit by sniper fire and stray bullets that could target innocent civilians is still continuous…If we allow them [to enter Marawi amid fighting], we will be distracted and they are putting their lives in danger and we already told them they could be hit by stray bullets,” he said.

    “If we will be giving a go-signal to the civilians, they can be assured that they can go back to their homes, and for us to safeguard them while returning to their houses,” Padilla added.

    with DEMPSEY REYES

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