Military casualties mounting in Marawi City
MARAWI CITY – The number of military casualties continue to mount as security forces battle local ISIS militants nearly 3 months after jihadists occupied Marawi City in southern Philippines.
Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said some 122 soldiers had died since fighting broke out on May 23 that also killed 45 civilians. It said 539 militants were allegedly slain, but most of the reports came from unverified intelligence sources and not based from bodies recovered in the battlefield.
Petinglay did not disclose the total number of soldiers wounded in the fighting despite efforts to get the information from her, but security sources said more than 1,000 soldiers had been injured in fierce clashes with ISIS. Troops had rescued over 1,700 civilians – including four men, three of them from Zamboanga City and other a native of Iligan City, who recently escaped from ISIS – in the besieged city since fighting began, according to military reports.
Security officials have repeatedly said about 5 dozens militants are still fighting troops in Marawi despite heavy aerial bombings and army artillery fire on their hideouts.
Petinglay said troops were getting closer to the ISIS group which is holding dozens of civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest. “Fighting continue in about a square kilometer general area where the terrorists are currently held up. It is also believed that there are still hostages with the group numbering to an estimated 50 to 70 people,” she said.
Soldiers also occupied a fortified building previously under ISIS control and recovered an abandoned armoured car used by militants. “The building where it was found was believed used by the terrorists as a storage area and temporary base that houses most of their wounded. Found also in the building is a tunnel where the Maute remnants store their food, bullets, and weapons,” Petinglay said.
“The recent capture of one of the terrorist’s strongholds connotes that the troops are advancing towards the battle positions of Maute remnants, signifying that the terrorists are already contained in a narrower engagement area,” she added.
The United States said armed drones are ready to strike ISIS positions in Marawi. In June, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would order the military to carpet bomb the besieged city to finish off the ISIS militants once and for all.
Military photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show an abandoned armoured vehicle used by local ISIS militants in one of the building previously held by jihadists in Marawi City. And the 4 men – three from Zamboanga City and a native of Iligan City – who escaped recently from ISIS in the besieged city.