Maute fighters in Marawi down to 40, says AFP

Claudine Rigal
Août 14, 2017

Less than 40 Islamist extremists remain in the main battle zone in Marawi, down from the hundreds of fighters who laid siege to the Islamic city nearly three months ago, the military said Monday. "So the force is getting smaller", Padilla said in a news conference in Malacañang. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the remaining Maute terrorists continue to pose a threat since they are still holding hostages in two barangays.

He added that while ground commanders estimate that there are less than 40 fighters remaining, their ability to inflict harm on security forces remains. So between 20 to 40 na lang siguro 'yan. In spite of this, government troops are still up in arms as the terrorists' "capacity to inflict harm is still there because they still have arms and adequate ammunition", Padilla added. "So that's the compounding factor", the AFP official said.

The attack has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao. The military has stopped setting a timeline for the Marawi operations after repeatedly missing its self-imposed deadlines.

Padilla said that the military had received information that Maute fighters confined in Marawi City were calling for reinforcement amid the long armed struggle.

"Actually, don't look at Marawi per se as the reason for keeping martial law".

The long-drawn crisis in Marawi, once a bustling commercial and cultural hub, has driven out more than 400,000 residents from the city and surrounding areas. "They have groups in other portions of Lanao, in Maguindanao, in Sulu archipelago", the military spokesman said. "And we're doing that", Padilla said. No, we still have a lot of homework to do.

"At least, we know that our targets are still within the area and we hope that we will be able to neutralize them then and there will be no next chapters or continuation of their atrocities and terrorist activities that might spread out the country", Arevalo told reporters in a news briefing.

He said the intelligence report is being validated but he assured the public that the troops "are adequate to cover any kind of movement".

Meanwhile, the Palace condemned the Maute group's alleged plan to turn some of their hostages into suicide bombers, as claimed by escaped hostages.

"We strongly denounce these desperate actions which apparently are carefully calculated to create a violent reaction from the general populace in order to create tension between ethnic groups, which the terrorist groups expect to work in favor of their cause", Abella said.

"We, however, assure our people that the government forces will continue to abide by the rules of engagement to ensure the safety of the hostages, particularly women and children in our drive to clear Marawi of all armed elements", he said.

A total of 562 Maute militants, 128 government troopers and 45 civilians have died since the clashes started last May.

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