Marawi destruction ‘beyond evil’
MARAWI CITY — What used to be a lively strip of Barangay (village) Bangolo, where residents of the city got their fill of such food as pizza, had become the perfect example of destruction – with debris and skeletal remains of still unidentified people scattered around.
Civilian officials of Lanao del Sur said the first images of Bangolo, taken on Sunday but released to the media only on Thursday, appeared to have confirmed their fear that the more than a month of fighting had really left most of the city in ruins.
Bangolo was among the site of fierce fighting between government forces and gunmen from the Maute, the Abu Sayyaf and their allies, since May 23. The other villages where fighting remained were Lilod, Raya Madaya and Marinaut.
As of Thursday, the official death toll from the fighting was 418 – 71 soldiers, 44 civilians and 303 militants.
Even on Sunday when the photos were taken, many areas of Bangolo remained to be unsafe, according to Zia Alonto-Adiong, the spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur crisis management committee.
“We have not yet seen what’s inside but our fear about damages and waste of human lives is increasing,” Adiong said.
He said when he first saw the images, he could not describe what he felt.
“It’s really beyond evil. We feel helpless (and) at the same time angered by the destruction,” he added.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, the spokesperson of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division and of the Joint Task Force Marawi, said the military continued to gain ground as the enemies were leaving their previous positions.
“What is the implication of this? The more we recover guns from them, take down their positions, the more we are gaining grounds and vantage positions. We are navigating close to them,” he said.
Herrera said even if soldiers were taking down the gunmen, they were also striving to save more lives by rescuing trapped civilians.
Since May 23, he said a total of 1,711 trapped civilians had already been plucked out.
He said the military was looking forward to rescuing more people – including those being held hostage by the extremists.
Herrera said Abdullah Maute also remained in command of his men.
“He is very visible in the area and he is the one leading the battle positions of the enemy,” Herrera said.
On Thursday, the military continued with its airstrikes as the terrorists put up fierce resistance against advancing troops.
Retired Army Col. Pendatun Guro, who refused to leave his house near the war zone, said the air strikes indeed prevented the gunmen from taking more areas.
But Guro said he would rather that the military go easy on the air strikes as it barely harm the terrorists – who used cement-reinforced areas to avoid being hit.
“The houses where the enemies have been hiding are all solid. Here in Marawi, clan war is common so people are building houses that can protect their families,” he said.