DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday the war in Marawi City would be over in three days.
Military commanders in Marawi, the Cabinet official said, had estimated that there were only 100 terrorists left in the battleground since the Islamic State-linked Maute group attacked the city on May 23.
The area covered by the terrorists is also down to a few hectares, he said.
“The area the terrorists are holding is shrinking, from 10 hectares a week ago to just about a couple of hectares now. Our ground commanders told us that they could finish the crisis by the end of the month. So we have three days to do the job. I am holding them responsible for fulfilling their promise,” Lorenzana told reporters.
He admitted, however, that despite the dwindling number of Maute terrorists, there were still casualties on the side of the government.
“Yesterday we lost one soldier and had 15 wounded men. Our enemies are that dangerous. Even if they are having a hard time, they can still kill,” Lorenzana said.
He said about 20 hostages held by the terrorists still have to be rescued.
Lifting of martial law uncertain
Despite the looming end of the Marawi crisis, Lorenzana said the lifting of martial law in Mindanao remained uncertain because other terror groups were still active in other parts of the island.
“We have to finish the Marawi situation first and then we will assess the situation in the whole of Mindanao, especially in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) area, if there are pockets of resistance from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Central Mindanao and the presence of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Jolo,” Lorenzana said.
“We will be making the recommendation soon. Some time in October we will recommend, either the lifting or continuation [of martial law],” he added.
“I will consider the recommendation of the people in Marawi and in Lanao, which is if they want martial law to continue while rehabilitating their area…but the final determination whether to continue martial law or not rests with the President.”
Earlier, Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año said he expected to finish the Marawi war before his retirement on October 26.