Maute fighters send surrender feelers

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Military officials said members of the Maute Group have sent surrender feelers as fighting continues in the war-ravaged city of Marawi where security forces were trying to dislodged heavily-armed militants from their strongholds.

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Army Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr. said they expect some of the terrorists to surrender as troops advance in the city’s center where most of the Maute men are hiding. He did not say how many intend to surrender.

Col. Edgard Arevalo confirmed that the military had received surrender feelers from members of the Maute Group who only have two options left – surrender or die.

Arevalo, head of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces, refused to disclose how the terrorists made known their desire to yield.

“We are inclined to believe that there are genuine surrender feelers,” Arevalo told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

“First of all, we know that the pressure of the intense combat intelligence operations [in Marawi]is mounting and at the same time, [the Maute’s]maneuver space is getting smaller every day,” he added.

He cited certain gains of the military, including the retaking of some key structures in the main battle area such as the Grand Mosque, the Bato Ali Mosque and three bridges previously controlled by the Maute.

“Everyday, their number of casualties have been increasing. All possible exits are being guarded,” Arevalo said.

“They only have two options: either they surrender or they die,” he added.

While fighting rages on in Marawi, military propagandists, armed with loud speakers, continue their “psychological operation” aimed at convincing militants to abandon their struggle and surrender peacefully.

It was not immediately known whether those who wanted to yield were hard core members or civilians forced to fight.

The Islamic State-linked Maute Group occupied Marawi in May in a failed bid to make the city a province of the Islamic State.

Bridges
Government troopers crossed two bridges – Bayabao (Banggolo) and Masui (Raya Madaya) — in Marawi City earlier controlled by the Maute Group.

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, Joint Task Force Marawi commander Rolando Bautista and Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident commander Danilo Pamonag crossed the bridges.

Another bridge, the Baloi (Mapandi) bridge, was retaken by military troops on July 29.

“These bridges were recently recovered and controlled by government forces from the Maute Terrorist Group that lay siege over this Islamic City,” Bautista said in a statement.

Arevalo said the retaking of these bridges is a major victory.

“It allows us access from the outside of Marawi City to the main battle area specifically inside [Marawi]. We consider this as a victory for the military since these [bridges]were previously held by terrorists as their strategic areas,” Arevalo told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

The Bayabao bridge in Barangay Banggolo, Marawi City was retaken by state forces on September 1. The bridge is one of three bridges that lead to the center of Marawi City.

However, while retaking the bridge, three soldiers were killed while 52 others were wounded.

According to Bautista, the crossing of Bayabao bridge signifies the progress made by state troopers.

“The terrorists are now becoming desperate as our soldiers and police are closing in on their defensive positions,” he said.

“We are continuing our appeal to the terrorists to release their hostages and for them to surrender,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte, during his fifth visit in the war-zone last Thursday, told military commanders and troopers that “the end of the combat operation is just around the corner.”

“Once the firefight is over, the daunting task of rehabilitation will proceed full blast,” Bautista said.

As of the latest military count, at least 694 Maute members and 151 government troopers have been killed in the four-month old siege.

AL JACINTO

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