Life returning where war started
MARAWI CITY—The streets of Basak Malutlut village are slowly returning to life.
Residents have started cleaning their houses, removing remnants of the five-month siege that left more than a thousand people dead.
Other residents said they were not surprised to find nothing left in their valuables.
“Do you think the terrorists would take away my sofa?” said Abdul Sarip, a resident of Basak Malutlut, the first village in this city where the government allowed residents to return on Sunday.
Sarip said his belongings were scattered everywhere when he entered his home.
“The vault where we kept our savings was forcibly opened,” he said.
Amenola Gandaw, 52, a village councilman, said his family’s P30,000 savings and other valuables were also missing.
“But I thank Allah that my family is safe and out of danger. We will start a new life from here,” he said.
Another man, who refused to be identified for security reason, said the village, though, was not a stronghold of Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen during the war.
“This only shows how bad our government was,” he said.
“Our apartment is in the middle (of other units). They burned only my apartment. Everything was stolen,” he said.
Local officials and the military have scheduled the return of residents until December.
Reports of looting surfaced since the early part of the war that started on May 23.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, said authorities would look into the reports.
He said the military had drone footage where terrorists were seen looting homes at the height of the war.
Brawner said only residents who were on the list prepared by officials of Basak Malutlut were allowed to return on Sunday.
“If their names are not on the list, then they cannot enter. We want to prevent a repeat of what happened,” he said.
On May 23, clashes erupted in Basak Malutlut when soldiers and policemen tried to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged head of Islamic State in Mindanao, in a three-story apartment in the village.
But government forces were met by terrorists backed by an undetermined number of foreign fighters.
On Oct. 16, Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the terror leaders, were killed by the military. —Jeoffrey Maitem
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