Fighting resumes between gov’t troops, armed groups in Marawi
Updated 9:18 p.m. (First posted at 10:29 a.m.)
MARAWI CITY – Fighting between armed men and government forces here resumed on Thursday, the morning after President Duterte arrived from his trip to Moscow that was cut-short when terrorists attacked this Islamic City.
The fighting commenced at around 9:30 a.m., with government soldiers entering areas where members of the Maute terror group and the Abu Sayyaf have been staying since Tuesday.
“It has started,” Maki Panandigan, a resident of Marawi City, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone at 9:45 a.m.
At 4 p.m., Panandigan again called the Inquirer saying mortar shelling continued, with several houses already on fire.
Earlier, the armed men fired their weapons towards the military camp where journalists covering the events have been staying.
News teams of Rappler, TV 5, INQUIRER and other agencies scampered and ducked for cover around 1:30 p.m. when Maute and Abu Sayyaf snipers fired their guns toward the journalists and government troops.
No one was hurt in the gun attack and operating troops pursued the perpetrators.
There was no immediate data available on casualties in Thursday’s offensives.
But on Wednesday, the Western Mindanao Command said five soldiers were killed while 31 others were wounded in the fighting.
Two policemen were also killed — Insp. Edwin Placido, deputy police chief of Marawi City; and Senior Insp. Freddie Manuel Solar, a graduate of Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Class 2007 and
chief of the Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit.
Two other employees of provincial capitol’s disaster rescue team were killed by the gunmen.
The military said 13 suspected members of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf were also killed.
The military operations were launched a day after thousands of residents evacuated to nearby Lanao del Sur towns, Iligan City and as far as Cagayan de Oro City.
Tata Sembrano Campos, 50, who was staying at the evacuation center outside the headquarters of 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi, told the INQUIRER they were terrified when the violence erupted Tuesday.
Campos said her 26-year old son, Joey, was riding his motorbike along with his two friends when they were attacked by the armed men.
“The attackers followed them and shot and killed his two friends. My son was wounded,” Campos said.
“I really don’t know what we did wrong to them,” she added.
Myrna Jo Henry, speaking for the Humanitarian Emergency Response Action Team of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Heart-ARMM), said at least 7,000 individuals have sought refuge in six evacuation centers, as of Thursday.
Henry said the Heart-ARMM has prepared food packs consisting of rice and canned goods for the evacuees.
Henry said some of the evacuees were fetched from the evacuation centers by their relatives living outside Marawi.
But Fatima, an evacuee, went as far as Cagayan de Oro, with her four children.
Fatima, whose husband works in Manila, said they hitched a ride with her husband’s relatives’ vehicle and left that city Wednesday night. They arrived in Cagayan de Oro late Thursday morning because of the
traffic congestion that caused a gridlock in Iligan.
Before chaos ensued, Fatima recalled she had just stepped out of a money-transfer office inside the Mindanao State University main campus in Barangay Rapasun to get the cash her husband sent.
Fatima said when fighting erupted in Marawi, she lost no time in going to her neighbor’s house, her husband’s relatives, and decided to hitch a ride with them going out of Marawi.
“We haven’t brought anything. Me and my children only had the clothes we wear,” she said. “We didn’t care if there were gunshots. We just wanted to get out of Marawi.”
“The armed men ordered us to hurry up and leave Marawi. They also said they will burn our houses,” she added.
When they reached Iligan City, they spent the night at a lodge before proceeding to Cagayan de Oro in the morning.
Also on Thursday, buses intended to transport residents and students stranded in Marawi City were not allowed to enter the area due to safety concerns.
Aminoden Guro, director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Northern Mindanao, said nine buses were supposed to go to Marawi Thursday morning to ferry those who were still in hiding in the Islamic city but were advised by local government officials not to proceed due to the raging gunbattle..
The buses were provided by the Rural Transit Mindanao, Inc. and Super 5 companies.
Guro said they were informed that several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were planted by the armed men in some parts of the city and these could put the lives of both rescuers and evacuees in jeopardy.
Guro said about 500 students remained stranded at the Mindanao State University (MSU) main campus, as of Thursday, but they were being taken care of by the school’s administration, and thousands of
“The campus is being secured by the police and the military. The security there (in MSU) is tight,” he said, adding that many of the stranded students came from other parts of the country.
At the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol in Marawi, dozens of public school teachers from Wao, had to stay there with the employees and were said to be guarded by law enforcers and government troops, he added. SFM
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