MARAWI CITY • Some ISIS-linked militants besieging the southern Philippine city of Marawi have sent "feelers" that they are prepared to surrender, after 31/2 months of fighting, the military said yesterday.
Philippine forces have used loudspeakers urging militants to give themselves up, telling the estimated 50 to 60 fighters left in the city that their lives would be spared if they disarm, change out of their black clothes and walk to a designated location.
"Hopefully, we will have surrenders within the next few days," a military spokesman, Colonel Romeo Brawner, told a news conference. "There are feelers. Definitely, there are feelers," he said, declining to elaborate.
The surrender offer came after a renewed, if short-lived, effort by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to start backchannel talks with the militants, with a former Marawi mayor, Mr Omar Solitario Ali, acting as an intermediary.
Mr Duterte last Saturday ruled out the possibility of allowing rebels to flee in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages.
Two members of the security forces were killed at the weekend, taking to 147 the number of personnel killed in the conflict.
Some 655 militants and 45 civilians have also been killed in the conflict, according to the army.
Troops were engaged in running battles with the terrorist alliance, led by Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute of the Maute group, and Isnilon Hapilon, a factional head of the Abu Sayyaf group and the so-called "emir" of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in South-east Asia.
More than 20 structures were seized, many laden with booby traps. Some were commercial high-rise buildings that had been used to position snipers to thwart government forces.
While some areas of Marawi are seeing citizens return and shops and schools reopen, most of the city remains deserted. Its centre is a wasteland, pummelled by daily air strikes and ground battles.