CAMP SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao — Government clearing operations entered the fourth day Friday, with 31 terrorists killed so far, authorities said.
As this developed, Malacanang announced that President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to arrive this afternoon in Iligan City to personally assess the situation.
Lt. Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said two battalions of soldiers from the 103rd Infantry Brigade, backed by armored personnel carriers and Air Force assets, continue the clearing operations.
He said that 13 soldiers and policemen were also killed in the clashes with the Maute Group, bringing the death toll, including the terrorists, to 44.
“We are gaining headway,” Herrera said in a radio interview here. “We will continue to pursue the high value targets until Marawi is cleared of terrorists.”
Two combat helicopters took turns in pounding “enemy positions” in what Herrera described as “careful surgical operations.”
More than 150 civilians trapped in houses and buildings “have been safely rescued and are now in safe hands,” Herrera added.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), hailed the government troops who died in the Marawi atrocities.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the City (of Marawi) will be cleared from terror threat and immediately restore normalcy in that part of Mindanao,” Galvez said.
“We once more call on the people in the community to join us fight terrorism. Provide your security forces with information that will contribute to the neutralization of these agents of deaths and destruction,” Galvez said.
“We will exhaust all efforts to crush the remaining Maute members so that the people of Marawi City can go back to their homes the soonest (possible time),” he added.
Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, Lanao Sur police director, said many villages previously occupied by the terrorists have been recovered by government troops.
The Westmincom said six high-powered firearms, including a cal. 30 machine gun, have been recovered.
Herrera, citing information on the ground, said there are about “30 or 40 terrorists who continue to fight the government forces.”
Chief Supt. Reuben Sindac, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao based here, said police personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion were deployed in towns outside Marawi City to prevent fleeing terrorists from sowing terror in surrounding municipalities.
More police and military checkpoints have been set up along the Narciso Ramos Highway linking Marawi and Cotabato cities. Edwin Fernandez and Darwin Wally Wee/PNA-northboundasia.com