THE Maute group’s stronghold in Marawi City has been reduced to “over half a kilometer grid square”, more than two months since clashes erupted in May, a military spokesman said.
“I am happy to inform you that military operations in the area is progressing very well…Previously, we have been talking about slightly over a kilometer grid square, and then a kilometer grid square. Now, it’s slightly over half a kilometer grid square. So the world of the enemy is getting smaller,” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said at the Mindanao Hour news briefing in Malacanang.
Padilla said that the measurement was based on the military’s estimate of the area, which is now undergoing clearing operations.
Padilla clarified, however, that there were still 50 to 60 members of the IS-inspired terror group remaining in the war-torn city, higher than 20-40 that had been announced.
“The recent validation by our ground commanders also disclosed that we still face about 50 to 60 armed fighters contrary to previous announcements and assessments that we said they were less than this,” Padilla said.
“In the recent assessment by Western Mindanao Command, Lieutenant General Galvez has informed us that their best estimate is that the enemy remains at about 50 to 60. And hostages are believed to be still at 30-plus,” he added.
Padilla said the military continued to deal with the “challenges” in Marawi even as fighting has been concentrated in smaller areas.
He said that among such challenges was the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the main battle area.
“The main battle area remains complex with the continued discovery of many IEDs and unexploded ordnance. And this is a part of the continuing challenges that we are facing and continuing to address,” Padilla said.
“But operations, as I have mentioned, are progressing very well, and noting that we have had no one killed in action for the last eight days. Unfortunately, the wounded were still suffering and we just had two soldiers who lost their legs because of tripping into IEDs that were left in a building that they were clearing,” he added.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said that, as of August 18, 573 terrorists, 128 troops and 45 civilians had been killed in the fighting.
Soldiers also recovered 635 firearms from the terrorists while 1,728 civilians trapped in the fighting were rescued.
Meanwhile, Abella announced that Task Force Bangon Marawi supported the call of the Ulamas and all local chief executives of Lanao del Sur to condemn violent extremism.
He said the commitment was made during the recent Regional Ulama Conference and signing of fatwa held in Iligan City on August 16.
“This supports the declaration of war against the IS-inspired Maute terror group of all 41 Mayors in Lanao del Sur through a manifesto signed on the 12 of August 2017. The 40 towns and one city of the province shall strengthen the civilian security plan of barangay mobilizing religious leaders with the said declaration,” Abella said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE