MARAWI CITY — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said yesterday the battle of Marawi City would end soon.
Yesterday, FA-50 fighter jets continued to bomb the terrorists’ stronghold which now shrunk to about 2 hectares, said Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr., deputy commander of Task Force Ranao. Government forces have been battling the Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists for months now.
“We hope that the end of this Marawi conflict is drawing near,” Brawner told reporters. The terrorists have dug in and used basements to escape the fighter jets’ bombings . The latest clashes brought 20 soldiers wounded and one dead. The terrorists’ death stands at 822 dead since the siege have begun since late May.
40 terrorists remained in the warzone area,Brawner said, including leaders Omarkhayam Maute of the Maute terrorist clan and Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group. About 100 civilians are still in the battle zone, including hostages and families of the terrorists.
“Women and children are now forced to fight together with the Maute fighters. These are desperate measures the Maute are doing. This is their last defensive stand,” he added. The terrorist group are attempting to establish an IS enclave in Southeast Asia.
Government troops managed to rescue hostages from the battle zone. A 16-year girl became the 21st hostage to be rescued this month. Seventeen other hostages including nine women were also recused last October 4. Brawner said the military hoped the civilians who remained in the battle are still alive.
“The Maute is now using the hostages as human shields and baits to pinpoint the location of our soldiers,” he said but insisted the military was really “near to liberating the city.”Pres. Rodrigo Duterte earlier warned to reporters not to celebrate the eventual liberation of Marawi, citing the deaths and devastation there. “When we leave Marawi, we go quietly. We do not want to show any kind of celebration or happiness,” he said.
Breaking news: Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the leaders of the ISIS-inspired Maute group, have been killed.
Colonel Edgard Arevalo, public information chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said they received field reports that the two local terror leaders are dead.
The military are still waiting for official confirmation of the reports.
The confirmation of Hapilon and Maute’s deaths may have already reached President Rodrigo Duterte. However Malacañang and Defense officials have yet to issue any statement.