20 to 40 militants still in Marawi but they are armed, have hostages

MANILA • Only 20 to 40 Muslim terrorists remain holed up in the besieged southern Philippine city of Marawi, but they continue to be a threat, according to the Philippine army.

While the militant number has been whittled down in the nearly three-month battle, Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, the spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that the Maute terrorists could still inflict harm with their stock of adequate ammunition.

"So, the force is getting smaller and their capacity to inflict harm, by the way, is still there because they still have arms, they still have adequate ammunition and they still continue to hold hostages. So that's the compounding factor," he said during a briefing on Monday.

The official said military operations are now concentrated in two barangays, or districts, which the terrorists continue to hold.

"Those two barangays remain to be in the area that we have been mentioning all along. Name of those barangays, I cannot disclose," he said.

As of 7pm on Sunday, around 562 militants have been killed, while 128 government troops have died in action and 45 civilians were killed by the terrorists.

Hostages who managed to escape from the terrorists said the remaining captives, including Catholic priest Teresito Suganob, had been forced to gather gunpowder from firecrackers, for the terrorists to use in bombs.

"The only thing that we're really seeking to do is to be able to rescue them safe and sound, alive, at the conclusion of this fighting and we're doing that," said Brig-Gen Padilla.

As of 7pm on Sunday, around 562 militants have been killed, while 128 government troops have died in action and 45 civilians were killed by the terrorists.

But he added that even if the military is able to clear and secure Marawi, martial law would not be lifted.

"Actually, don't look at Marawi per se as the reason for keeping martial law. You know, this rebel group has a structure that is beyond Marawi," he said.

The home-grown terrorists, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have groups in other parts of Lanao, in Maguindanao and the Sulu archipelago.

PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline '20 to 40 militants still in Marawi but they are armed, have hostages'. Print Edition | Subscribe