Still no safe area in Marawi battlezone
ILIGAN CITY—Although the military has claimed to have gained back control of most parts of Marawi previously taken by Maute gunmen and their allies, top military officials here warned that nobody remains safe from stray bullets in the city’s battle zone.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, renewed this warning after a stray bullet killed an official of the Civil Service Commission in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CSC-ARMM) and wounded the agency’s regional chief in Marawi City on Thursday.
Marvin Ablando, 45, assistant director of the CSC-ARMM, was on his way out of the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus with CSC-ARMM Director Sandra Arnica Usman, 43, when he was hit by one of the stray .50 caliber bullets that pierced through their vehicle at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
‘Not yet generally safe’
Both officials were immediately rushed to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City for treatment but Ablando died upon arrival there. Usman, whose forehead was also grazed by a bullet, was now declared out of danger.
“It showed the city is not yet considered generally safe for civilians,” Petinglay said.
“In Marawi City, we have not declared any safe area from stray bullets,” he said.
The military merely declared “controlled areas,” which means it had “control over the entry and exit and the security condition inside those areas.”
MSU has been considered a “controlled area” by the military since it remained untouched by nearly four months of fighting in Marawi City, allowing it to reopen classes in June amid heavy security.
Capt. Mike Malacad of the public affairs office of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division said while the effective range of a .50 caliber bullet was 1,829 meters, its maximum range was 6,812 meters.
The main battle area was about the same distance from the MSU or the capitol compound in Marawi City, where several individuals had also been hit and injured in recent days.
Petinglay said the military had raised their concern over the security of over 6,000 MSU students who were returning to school during the series of conferences before the decision to reopen the MSU campus in Marawi.
ARMM’s CSC assistant director was the second to have been killed by a stray bullet during the long-drawn Marawi war, after 15-year-old Abdillah Masid was hit on June 9.
Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee of Lanao del Sur, said the number of the dead and wounded by stray bullets had indeed showed that even if some areas of Marawi City had been cleared of terrorists, danger continued to stalk civilians.
Normal inside MSU
Meanwhile, the military on Friday said the situation was normal inside the newly reopened MSU.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the gate near where the shooting occurred had been closed, and traffic in the area has been rerouted.
A private school near there has also been asked to suspend operations.
But the situation remains normal in the other parts of the MSU compound, Padilla said.
“However, classes and normalcy still remain inside the Mindanao State University community, MSU community and will continue because they are well secured in that area,” he said.
While the MSU is several kilometers away from the battle area, Padilla said it was “not farfetched” that there were armed sympathizers of the pro-Islamic State extremists who had shot at vehicles or innocent parents near the school.
“MSU is still secured by some of our forces. There are forces that are detailed there to conduct checkpoints and to ensure that no groups will be able to penetrate from a safe distance,” he said.
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