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Hostages saw key IS leaders alive – Army

/ 07:10 AM October 09, 2017
CITY IN RUINS Army soldiers walk to the front line against Islamic State-inspired terrorists among the war ruins in Marawi City.  JEOFFREY MAITEM

CITY IN RUINS Army soldiers walk to the front line against Islamic State-inspired terrorists among the war ruins in Marawi City. JEOFFREY MAITEM

MARAWI CITY — The military would keep custody of 17 hostages rescued from the main battle zone here who saw two key terrorist leaders still alive.

The hostages would be debriefed as they had taken up arms, whether against their will or not, against government forces, said Col. Romeo Brawner.

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“They are still going through a process like medical examination and debriefing,” said Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, on Sunday.

“We understand the relatives of the hostages are worried now but we want to assure them that they are treated well by the military and police,” Brawner said.

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Cannot be released yet

“They are just going through a process right now. We cannot give you [a] specific number of days when they will be released. It will depend on their tactical interrogation,” he added.

Brawner said all 17 hostages—nine men and eight women—were allowed to contact their families on Oct. 4, the day they were rescued by government troops from the main battle area.

“That same morning, the relatives of the hostages were informed of their situation. In fact, we lent them mobile phones so that they could personally speak with their relatives,” he said.

Looters

On initial debriefing results, Brawner said some of the rescued hostages narrated how they were forced to loot for ammunition, firearms, money and pieces of jewelry in abandoned houses.

Brawner also quoted some of the hostages as saying they saw terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute still alive.

“They told us at first they did not know who were the leaders, but they were giving orders. And then later on, heard their names as Isnilon Hapilon and Omar. They were able to personally see these leaders,” Brawner said.

Surviving hostages

Brawner said some of the hostages were given dextrose intravenously.

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One was airlifted to Cagayan de Oro for shrapnel wounds but was now out of danger.

The military said it had identified where the hostages were located.

“We are not targeting the hostages,” he said.

The death toll in the war on terror was expected to further rise even as authorities prepared to conduct a “one-time, big-time” operation to retrieve corpses.

More corpses

Brawner said at least 40 bodies and skeletal remains had been found inside cleared areas last week alone.

Some of the corpses were found in shallow graves, he said.
Capin Funeral Homes in Iligan City, where many of the corpses had been kept, refused to accept any more bodies.

Danilo Capin, funeral home owner, said his neighbors were already complaining about the smell of formalin, which was used to preserve the corpses.

Brawner said the military expected to find more remains. —Jeoffrey Maitem and Richel Umel

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TAGS: Islamic State, Joint Task Force Ranao, Marawi hostages, Marawi siege, Maute group, Romeo Brawner
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