5 terrorists killed in Marawi clash
MARAWI CITY — At least five gunmen belonging to the Maute terror group and their allies were killed after a firefight with government forces broke out here on Tuesday, military reports said.
The military’s Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi said the clash, which erupted less than 12 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte visited troops in the main battle area, started at 1:19 a.m. between Marines, under the Joint Task Group Tiger, and gunmen holed out in a section of this Lanao del Sur provincial capital.
A statement from the JTF Marawi said five suspected gunmen were killed in the clash but government troops had accounted for only four bodies.
“[Only] two bodies were retrieved while the other two were left in the [clash] site because of dangerous circumstances,” it said.
Soldiers also recovered several firearms, including two high-powered guns, and a pair of night vision goggles.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera of the 1st Infantry Division’s public affairs office said the recovery of the night vision goggles showed that the Maute gunmen and their allies had access to technology in fighting the government.
The use of such technology, he said, enabled extremists to engage soldiers even if it was dark.
He said the government had yet to determine where the night vision goggles came from.
“We still don’t know if they got this from slain soldiers or they had this already when the fighting started [on May 23],” Herrera said.
Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista, JTF Marawi commander, said Mr. Duterte’s encouragement during his visit here on Monday “boosted” the “fighting spirit” of soldiers battling the Maute gunmen and their allies.
“The President’s recent presence in the main battle area left a mark on our troops, [on] their strong desire to end the crisis in Marawi,” Bautista said.
Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident, said the “heightened morale [of soldiers] in fighting the enemy has resulted in the quick and deliberate assault of enemy positions.”
“This accomplishment shows that the enemy’s hold in Marawi City is decreasing day by day. It is only a matter of time that the crisis will end,” he added.
The government has suffered 145 fatalities since the fighting erupted in May. Records showed at least 650 militants were killed.
The fighting killed at least 45 civilians and displaced more than 400,000 people.
On Monday, Mr. Duterte made his fourth visit to soldiers fighting Islamic State-inspired militants here.
The President went to the Grand Islamic Mosque, which soldiers recovered from the Maute group on Aug. 24. He also went to the Baloi Bridge in Barangay Mapandi and to the main battle area, where he joined soldiers in group pictures.
“Saludo ako sa inyo (I salute all of you),” a Malacañang press statement quoted Mr. Duterte as telling the soldiers during his speech.
The President attended a command conference with the JTF Marawi, where he was briefed on the developments of the nearly four months of efforts by government troops to retake the city from the Maute group.
He distributed packs of grocery items and wristwatches to soldiers. He also offered cigarettes to soldiers who wanted these.
“I will not stop you [from smoking] because I know you are under [a lot of] stress,” said Mr. Duterte, who detests cigarettes and whose administration has implemented a nationwide smoking ban.
The President promised all women soldiers assigned here a trip to Hong Kong after the crisis.
Mr. Duterte also took the opportunity to thank the Chinese government for the sniper rifles it donated to soldiers fighting militants here.
He said the P370-million worth of firearms and ammunition that China sent the Philippines in June were of “good quality.”
“Let’s thank them because everything that they gave us is of good quality, like the [sniper rifles]. Was it good? At the very least, let’s all be thankful,” the President told the soldiers.
“China has been very good to us, so I am grateful to them. In behalf of the … let’s give them a round of applause,” he added.
The President then told Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go to take video footage of the troops applauding, adding in jest that it meant “that what we want next is an airplane.”
“But the pilot has to learn a little Chinese because if everything is written in Chinese, then he won’t have any idea where his plane is going,” Mr. Duterte joked.
The President said he would no longer buy “second hand” military aircraft from the United States.
“I will no longer buy second hand helicopters from the Americans because the two … one of the two crashed. What’s happening to these Americans? And we paid for that,” he said.
“So for me, everything has to be brand new. All the planes and helicopters will have to be brand new,” he added.
The President first visited Marawi on July 20, after the military seized the Baloi Bridge from the Maute group’s control. He returned on Aug. 4 and Aug. 24 to check on the troops.
As in his previous visits, Mr. Duterte, who arrived at 2 p.m. on Monday, was accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, and Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.
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