BREAKING: Lorenzana says Marawi City siege is over
CLARK FREEPORT – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has announced that the Marawi City siege is now over, exactly five months after fighting between government troops and ISIS-linked Maute Group started.
“After 154 days of siege in Marawi with Daesh-inspired Maute-ISIS group, after a week the commander-in-chief declared the liberation of Marawi City, we now announce the termination of combat operations in Marawi City,” Lorenzana told reporters on Monday.
The announcement came on the sidelines of the Asean defense ministers meeting (ADMM), a high-level regional security forum among member nations, being held in this former American air base in the country.
“The Philippine forces, aided by its government and the massive support of the Filipino people, have nipped the budding infrastructure and defeated terrorism in the Philippines,” the defense chief said.
The combat operations were ended after terrorists tried to make their last stand inside the main battle area.
Government troops found 42 cadavers of suspected terrorists in two buildings and a mosque in the center of the clash.
“There was a firefight and they were finished,” Lorenzana said, adding all remaining hostages have been recovered the past few days.
Armed Forced Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año, meanwhile, said five foreign terrorists as well as two wives of foreign fighters were among those 42 bodies.
“We conducted mopping up operations. The presence of Maute-ISIS is confined in two big buildings and one is a mosque. That is where the last fighting occurred,” he said.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the deputy commander of the Joint Task Group Ranao, said retrieval of the bodies continued from the building that served as the terrorists’ last stronghold.
Marawi and Lanao del Sur officials said they welcomed the good news as it would pave the way for the rehabilitation works to formally start.
“It was a big relief for the people of Marawi City, who have (long wanted) to return,” said Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra.
He said they did not have any idea that the government would declare the formal end of the fighting on Monday because he was just talking to military officials earlier in the day and nothing of this sort was mentioned to him.
“We were at the city hall for the flag raising ceremony and all I was told about was that 20 hostages will be turned over to the local government unit. What they told me earlier was that there was only one building remaining. Now the Secretary of Defense (Lorenzana) had already made the announcement so I am sure the war is over,” Gandamra noted.
Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Crisis Management Committee (CMC), said they were looking forward to the end of the fighting as it would also signal the return of evacuees to their respective homes.
“We have been waiting this moment to come. Let us bring our people home,” he told the Inquirer by text message.
Adiong said they were also “elated with the news.”
“(A)nd we are optimistic that in the coming days, we can fully mobilize all sub-committees of the (Task Force Bangon Marawi) to proceed with the efforts for the complete recovery of Marawi,” Adiong added.
Lorenzana said the defeat of the terrorists in Marawi also contributed to the prevention of violent extremism from spreading in Asia.
“While we submit that these tactical and strategic gains will not annihilate the ideology completely, we declare that this achievement is clear manifestation of how our regional cooperation can lead to decisive advance against the proliferation of terrorism in this part of the world,” Lorenzana said. /kga
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