THE military is willing to send the Maute terrorists to where they want to go – to heaven.
“That’s our main goal. No way out, no way in. If they want to join, they want to go to heaven as what they have said, so we will give them the chance to go to heaven,” Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año told reporters in a chance interview after the ceremonial send-off to Marawi City for more than 100 female police and military officers in Villamor Air Base.
Año also said that the top Maute group leaders, including Isnilon Hapilon, Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute, were still within the battleground, fighting alongside their members.
There are less than 500 square kilometers of Maute territory inside Marawi City after government troops recaptured the Grand Mosque last week.
On Monday, military troops guarding Lake Lanao killed 10 Maute members believed to have been regrouping inside the battle zone. A sunken pump boat and firearms were recovered from the slain terrorists.
“So what we want to show here is that anywhere they go, if they will attempt to reinforce or they will escape, we are ready to get them,” said Año, as the fighting entered its 99th day.
The siege of Marawi began on May 23 when the IS-inspired Maute group staged a series of attacks in the city after government troops set out to arrest Hapilon, whom the Islamist extremists wanted to install as emir of a caliphate it would establish in the southern Philippines.
This act of rebellion prompted Duterte to declare martial law that was in effect for 60 days. Congress approved Duterte’s request for an extension until the end of 2017. DEMPSEY REYES