ZAMBOANGA CITY — At least 120 civilians were rescued as troops continue to fight the remaining members of the Maute group in Marawi City, the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Westmincom, on Thursday said 78 of the 120 civilians were rescued at the government-run Amai Pakpak Hospital.
The group consists of eight patients, 21 hospital staff, and 49 construction workers.
The remaining 42 are teachers who were trapped inside the Dansalan College. The Maute group burned a building of the school.
“According to sources, the militants were bringing along with them two wounded members and sought medical care from the hospital staff upon their arrival. On the process, they also held captive all 78 civilians in the hospital,” Galvez said.
Galvez pointed out there are politicians who are harboring the Mauter group followers. He did not identify them.
“Many people in Marawi and in other areas are denying the presence of a looming terrorism threat in their communities. Sadly, we even received reports that there were even politicians supporting the group in some way,” he said.
“This threat is something that needs to be eliminated and completely destroyed because if left to thrive, it will soon poison our communities and take our freedom and our precious lives away from us,” he added.
“We are therefore calling on all citizens not only those in Marawi (City) but also in other areas of Mindanao to join us in the fight. We have to make noise and disallow these terrorist to destroy our communities. Let us all make a strong stance against this menace before it gets us,” he further added.
So far, 13 Maute group members were killed as of Tuesday. Of this number, troops recovered two cadavers.
The government forces have recovered an M-16 Armalite rifle and a cache of bomb-making components from the safehouse of the Maute group.
Five soldiers were killed while 31 others were wounded in the ensuing firefight. Two policemen and a security guard were also killed.
The gun battle started when joint military and police forces raided the hideout of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is being protected by the Maute group.
However, the firefight escalated to four barangays in Marawi City as the militants occupied several establishments and held people hostage to divert to focused of the government fores.
Thousands of civilians were displaced brought about by the continuing firefight in Marawi City.
Meanwhile, checkpoints have been established along the highway that link Marawi City Iligan City.
“This is to ensure that no terrorist elements can mix up with internally displaced persons,” Galvez said. Darwin Wally T. Wee/PNA-northboundasia.com