All Islamic State-linked Maute stragglers hiding in the main battle area of Marawi City have been neutralized by ground troopers, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs chief, said Task Group Ranao deputy commander Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. informed him of the situation of remaining stragglers in Marawi City.
“That was exactly my question to Col. Brawner and he said that they see that all stragglers in Marawi were already neutralized,” Arevalo told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
However, if there will be stragglers still holding out in the battle zone, Arevalo said the terrorists might not be aware that the war in Marawi was already over.
“We are hopeful that they will find this out in due time and they will either turnover their firearms or give up or they will suffer the same fate of their [fellow terrorists],” he said.
Arevalo explained the absence of firefight in the main battle area indicated that there are no more Maute stragglers in Marawi City.
Following this claim, the military is now “focused” for the “further clearing operations” inside the main battle area to achieve the necessary preparation for the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts of the government.
“Based on our observation, there are no more enemies as what I have said. We would like to assume that they all have been neutralized,” Arevalo said.
Earlier this month, government authorities arrested terrorist Muhammad Ilham Syahputra, an Indonesian, when the latter attempted to escape the main battle area by swimming over Lake Lanao.
The military said Syahputra admitted that he was among those who took part in the Marawi siege, as well as the attack at Piagapo last April.
The foreign terrorist also admitted that he was invited by slain IS leader Isnilon Hapilon last year to lay siege and conduct bombings in some areas of Mindanao.
After Syahputra’s detention at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa said Malaysian terrorist Amin Baku became the newly-designated “emir” of the IS for Southeast Asia, replacing Hapilon.
But the AFP, through its spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., refuted the claims made by the police chief, saying Baku was believed to be dead by ground commanders including Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the Western Mindanao Command chief.