No more ‘signs of life’ in Marawi main battle zone
The military has seen no more signs of militant fighters in Marawi for nearly two weeks, allowing soldiers to focus on getting rid of unexploded bombs and trying to restore normalcy back to the devastated city.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla on Friday said the last recorded firefight between soldiers and stragglers from the pro-Islamic State (IS) groups was on Nov. 5, when nine militants were killed in the main battle area.
“That is why recently, there has been an announcement that we no longer sense or monitor any sign of life in the last main battle areas,” Padilla said in a Palace press briefing.
He said soldiers searching for bombs or booby traps found 16 unexploded ordnances on Wednesday, he said.
“We will continue to do this until we are fully convinced that all the IEDs (improvised explosive devices), all the traps, all the unexploded ordnance that may remain in the area have been found and addressed. This is to preclude any kind of hazard that may be faced by our civilians once we have opened up the area for the return,” he said.
Asked whether he thinks martial law in Mindanao could be lifted by the end of the year, Padilla said the military was “working toward that.”
President Duterte suspended the writ of habeas corpus and declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 at the start of the Marawi siege by the pro-IS fighters. Congress extended it to Dec. 31, but it could still be prolonged.
“We’re hoping to be able to address and normalize everything by the end of the year because that was the deadline given to us,” Padilla said.
He said the AFP was continuing efforts to dismantle the remaining network of local terrorist groups.
“So if we are able to address that … [in] the remaining days of November as well as the whole month of December—then we will report that to you and give justification for the lifting of martial law,” he said.
“If not, we will have to request an extension to be able to address the remaining threats in the area,” he added.
According to Padilla, efforts to return Marawi to normalcy were progressing well.
“We are very fortunate that our engagements with the local government as well as with the interagency task force are bearing very good fruits,” he said.
Residents had been allowed to return to nine barangays, and more affected areas would be cleared so that more people who had fled Marawi could return.