Maute fighters in Marawi dwindle

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, June 17 — The number of Maute members fighting the government forces in the strife torn city of Marawi has dwindled as soldiers continue to advance in areas the extremists used to have a strong hold, the military said Saturday.

According to the Joint Task Force Marawi, the sustained ground and air attack the military launched in the past few days has taken its toll on the Maute Group as more of its fighters were killed.

Per latest data released by JTF Marawi to the media, there are now about 225 insurgents who were killed either by airstrike’s or by engaging the government troops on the ground, while 208 assorted firearms were confiscated or recovered by the armed forces from the insurgents.

JTF said 50 military personnel had reported to have been killed in action.

“Enemy resistance continues to dwindle and enemy held areas continues (sic) to get smaller as troops advance,” the task force said in its update report over the weekend.

JTF said about 26 civilians had lost their lives as there are still residents who refused to leave their homes, although 1,629 of them had already been rescued by a combined team of military, civil society groups and local government officials.

Out of 96 barangays in Marawi, the JTF has noted only four villages, especially Bangolo and Marinaut, remained as “problem areas” and where the military has focused its assaults on.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 1st Infantry Division, soldiers are on “clearing operations” in those four villages after troopers managed to retake some of the strategic points where the enemy snipers used to be positioned and inflict casualties.

In these areas, the challenge for the advancing soldiers is the Maute Group’s use of civilians as human shields and mosques as the insurgents’ staging areas and safe havens, Herrera said.

Earlier, the military has assured that they will not attack or destroy the numerous mosques as these are places of worship for the city’s Muslim populace who considered them sacred.

The JTF said General Eduardo Año, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has reiterated his continuing guidance “to put a premium on civilian lives, respect for civilian properties during clearing operations and complete discipline among our men in uniform conducting military activities in the area.” Jigger Jerusalem/