TERROR leaders heading the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute group are alive and still inside Marawi City, a military official said on Monday.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, is unfazed as he considers this piece of information “good news”.
“At least, we know that our targets are still within the area and we hope that we will be able to neutralize them then and there will be no next chapters or continuation of their atrocities and terrorist activities that might spread out the country,” Arevalo told reporters in a news briefing.
“We have been receiving similar reports [that the terror leaders are still inside Marawi]and we are also validating these but we cannot just tell the specifics in regards to our actions,” he added.
Based on reports, Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf, as well as the Maute brothers, Omarkhayam and Abdullah, have fled Marawi City while others mentioned that one of the brothers were among the fatalities during the ongoing operations of the government.
The Maute group staged a series of attacks in Marawi City that began on May 23 in a bid to establish an independent state in the southern Philippines, with Hapilon as “emir”.
This act of “rebellion” forced Duterte to declare martial law for 60 days, which Congress voted to extend until Dec. 31, 2017 to allow the military and police to flush out the Islamist terrorists.
In the meantime, the ongoing fight between government soldiers and the Maute rebels have displaced thousands, killed close to a thousand more from the government, the enemy and civilians; and destroyed infrastructure.
The government has allotted funds for Marawi’s rehabilitation and created a task force to oversee its implementation. DEMPSEY REYES