Gov’t fatalities in Marawi rise to 160
MARAWI CITY—The number of government troops killed in the war here has risen to 160, as state security forces make a hard push against remaining Islamic State-inspired terrorists holed up in a small pocket of the city to end the conflict by Oct. 15.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, did not specify the circumstances surrounding the latest military losses but said the number of slain terrorists had also risen—to 811 from 774 on Monday.
Brawner said soldiers cleared more recaptured areas in the main battle zone, the size of which was now just three or four hectares.
On Wednesday, troops recovered the bodies of 27 terrorists killed in the fighting and in airstrikes on the positions of the remaining gunmen in the city center.
“The military remains confident to end the Marawi crisis by Oct. 15, which will be followed by a second clearing operation before the rehabilitation starts,” Brawner said.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the number of terrorists who continued to put up resistance could still be 100, more than double the initial military estimate of 38 to 48 gunmen.
Galvez said that among those still fighting alongside Omar Maute of the Maute terror group and Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group in the main battle zone were nine foreigners. He did not specify their nationalities.
At the start of the war here, Galvez said there were about 50 foreign terrorists who fought alongside the Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
Some were from Middle Eastern countries and the majority were from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Among those confirmed killed was Malaysian Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Galvez said.
Joraimee, also known as Abu Nur and the right-hand man of university-professor-turned-militant Mahmud Ahmad, was slain in fighting on Sept. 28.
Omar Maute still alive
“We still have some information that Omar, Dr. Mahmud, Amin Baku and six to nine foreign terrorists are still alive. They are considered very dangerous because they are aggressive and very desperate,” Galvez added.
Mahmud and Joraimee were among the alleged key planners of the May 23 Marawi siege, along with Hapilon and Maute siblings Abdullah, Omar and Madie.
Galvez said the part of the city that remained to be cleared, which included Barangay Dansalan, was assigned to Task Force Musang.
“One sector remaining to be cleared and we are confident to clear it not later than Oct. 15, which is our deadline,” he added.
Galvez said troops were inching forward cautiously because of the presence of the hostages, including 12 children and three women.
Three hostages managed to escape from the main battle area earlier this week.
Galvez said the escaped hostages, who were later rescued, had told authorities that the other women and children inside the main battle area were family members of the Maute gunmen and their allies.
Brawner earlier said the military had expected the fight to become more difficult as the terrorists were being pushed into smaller areas.
“It’s difficult in the sense that the structures there were closely built. Also, there are a lot of small houses, structures that they can easily hide in,” he said.
Galvez said the military was determined to finish the job before its self-imposed deadline. —WITH A REPORT FROM AP
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