THE Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists in Marawi City are turning their hostages into fighters, arms carriers and even looters, thereby increasing their number against government troops, a military official said on Monday.
“The enemy’s strength per the last validation seemed to have increased from 60 to 80… because of news and information that indicated that perhaps some of the hostages previously held have been forced to join the ranks,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Restituto Padilla said during the Mindanao Hour news briefing.
Citing the latest report of Joint Task Force Marawi, Padilla said the Maute group was still holding up to 60 hostages.
The military said civilians were forced to help the gunmen by carrying supplies and ammunition, attending to their wounded and even helping them loot the city.
More than 860 people have been killed in the fighting, including 147 soldiers and police, 47 civilians and 699 terrorists, as of September 17, Sunday. CATHERINE S. VALENTE