UPDATE 2: Marawi wakes up to Eid’l Fitr
without gunfire, bombs from airstrikes
Marawi City woke up for the first time in a month without the sounds of gunfire and bombs from airstrikes, according to an official from the Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee on Sunday.
In a televised press conference, Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso, thanked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for ensuring that there would be peace even momentarily so that Muslims may celebrate the end of Ramadan or Eid’l Fitr.
On Saturday, AFP Chief Eduardo Ano ordered a “humanitarian pause” in its offensives against the IS-linked Maute Group from 6 a.m.. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
At the same time, Hermoso said the military has until 2 p.m. to bring out more civilians who remain trapped in the war-torn city.
Hermoso said five teams of volunteers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would go to “ground zero” to retrieve civilians in this order: the wounded, children, women and elderlies.
Hermoso said the MILF teams would coordinate with Lieutenant Colonel Carlito Galvez, commander of Western Mindanao.
Hermoso said emissaries were able to contact the Maute Group, which assured them that they would cease firing.
Hermoso said the civilians would pass through the peace corridor, which President Rodrigo Duterte and the MILF agreed on last May 29.
He said that once the civilians have been recovered, they would be turned over to the local authorities for appropriate action.
In a statement, the Western Mindanao Command said over the weekend that the humanitarian pause in the offensive operations of the military would only “cover a halt” in the employment of its capabilities.
However, the ceasefire shall be lifted if troops’ security had been jeopardized; civilians’ safety threatened; and if the enemy, particularly remaining terrorists in the area, starts to launch attacks “and at which point anyone can exercise their right to self-defense”.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command, signed the order that Ano had approved.
Eid’l Fitr, an important religious holiday to Muslims, marks the end of the Ramadan or the Islamic holy month of fasting among Muslims.
Galvez said the declaration of a humanitarian ceasefire would allow the Islamic faithfuls to celebrate a “prayerful and peaceful” end of Ramadan amid the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
Clashes in the city started on May 23 after members of the Islamic State-linked Maute group staged a series of attacks stemming from foiled military and police operations in going after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, one of the most wanted terrorists in the US.
Hapilon and Maute brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam were reportedly killed during clearing operations of government security forces although this has not been validated, according to Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the whole island of Mindanao under martial law to last for 60 days.