Islamic State-linked Maute fighters are now holed up in only “two and a half” barangay (villages) in Marawi City, a military official said, as fighting in the city entered its 67th day on Friday.
During the “Mindanao Hour” news briefing in Malacañang, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman
Restituto Padilla Jr. said around 60 terrorists were still holed up in Marawi City, but that their “strongest force” was “confined” in a square kilometer of territory.
“I am happy to inform the body that our operations in Marawi continue to date and positively progressive. The area of operation is confined to about two barangay, or to be exact, about two and a half barangay and confined to about less than one square kilometer of the most problematic areas,” Padilla told reporters.
He refused to name the villages to avoid compromising military operations, only saying that the villages “continue to have areas of resistance.”
“Our troops are in a very high state of morale, all leaning forward to finish this operation at the soonest time possible,” Padilla said.
“Despite the number of casualties and wounded that we have had in the past few weeks, this does not deter the troops and our ground commanders from pursuing the mission and accomplishing the much-needed liberation of Marawi,” he added.
In the same news conference, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag said the death toll in the Marawi siege had risen to 630, as of July 26
The reported casualties, she said, included 471 Islamist gunmen, 45 civilians, and 114 security personnel.
Government security forces have rescued 1,723 civilians, cleared 26 buildings, and recovered 576 firearms, Banaag said.
59 men charged
Also on Friday, criminal charges were filed against 59 men for the crime of rebellion before the Department of Justice.
The accused, suspected Maute group members, were flown from Zamboanga City to Manila in a military plane to face the charges.
They were escorted by police commandos and underwent preliminary inquest proceedings before prosecutors.
The suspects, mostly young-looking men, will be detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City until their formal indictment in court.
The AFP said “fresh military and police uniforms” were confiscated from them Tuesday evening at a military checkpoint in Ipil, Zamboanga Del Sur and from a house in Guiwan, Zamboanga City.
They claimed they were members of the Moro National Liberation Front and that they were headed to Camp Jabalnur in Lanao del Sur for training.
with JOMAR CANLAS