Maute down to its last 80 men–AFP
The Maute terrorists and their Abu Sayyaf allies are now down to their last 80 fighters in Marawi City but there are still about 800 houses that have yet to be cleared by security forces.
The fighting was in its seventh week, said Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, but there were about 300 civilians still trapped in the war zone.
As of 6 p.m. on July 6, Padilla said security forces had killed 353 terrorists and recovered 426 high-powered firearms. At least 85 soldiers were killed.
“As to the death of some of the Maute brothers, there is indication that one has died but until such time that the grave is located, we cannot categorically confirm,” he said.
Still a war zone
“In some areas, they are no longer returning fire unlike in previous weeks. Now, it’s intermittent but there are still areas where they are fighting hard,” Padilla said.
“That means their stockpile could still be there and they may still have enough. These are the areas that we are focusing on and addressing,” he added.
“For those whose residences have not been damaged, once the hostilities have ended and the all-clear signal has been given, they will be assisted in returning to their homes,” Padilla said.
The military has started putting up a tent city of 3,000 tents that can serve as temporary shelter for those whose houses were damaged.
While the fighting in Marawi continues, Padilla said the military is also fighting a crucial battle to stop the spread of Islamist propaganda.
The military had identified around 300 social media sites spreading the propaganda of Maute terrorists and it has only managed to shut down some of these sites.
“There are about 54 or 64 sites that have been taken down but there are still 300 that are being monitored,” Padilla told reporters.
“Previously, we were monitoring only less than a hundred (but) it grew to more than 120. Now, we’re monitoring about 300,” he added.
Padilla said the military met with the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group on Thursday to determine how to fight the terrorists’ online propagandists.
“We’re coming up with appropriate measures to expedite that process. In the process of monitoring and taking down social media accounts that are proven to be supportive of terroristic activities, we need to work with social media companies,” he said.
But the real-life fighting is still waged by men on the ground who are saying it’s not as easy as some people may think.
Lt. Col. Christopher Tampus, the commander of the 1st Infantry Battalion, said they continue to deal with sniper fire, grenade launchers and mortar fire every day.
“But their resistance continues to wane. On a scale of 1-10, it is just 1 now,” Tampus said. “The situation varies [from one area to another] but here [in the Bangolo bridge area], the resistance is not the same as before.”
Tampus said his men have reduced their formerly many foes to about 10 gunmen near Raya Madaya Bridge.
Sgt. Erlito Pacaña said the fighting has been fierce since they first got off their vehicle and were met with an explosion.
Pfc. Mark Erwin Rule, 24, a native of Zamboanga del Sur, said his team was also sent to Barangay Basak Malutlut where they confronted a large number of “fierce fighters.”
Even soldiers assigned to take down enemies from a distance found the job difficult.
“In our case, we are assigned with the mortar unit. We have to make calculations and test-fire many times before we get to perfect the shot,” Pfc. Jonard Pedido said.
“It’s really not that easy,” said Pedido’s spotter, Sgt. Jeffrey Baybayan, a veteran gunner who fired 13 shells before hitting a target in the heart of the city earlier this week.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.