Troops advance into ISIS stronghold, search for hostages

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Mindanao Examiner)

MARAWI CITY – Military forces continue to advance into territories held by local IS militants in the war-ravaged Marawi City in search for civilians being held by the jihadist group.

Troops have already occupied many buildings and structures previously held by militants, but it was extremely difficult for them to scour the ruins due to the presence of improvised explosives and booby traps.

Just recently, Father Teresito Suganob, the vicar general of Marawi; and Lordvin Ocopio – who teaches at the Dansalan College Foundation Incorporated – allegedly escaped from a mosque used by militants as a base to attack soldiers.

There was no information on the fate of other hostages that Suganob said could reach more than 200, including 6 other teachers from Dansalan College, when he appealed to Duterte on a video released by IS in May as a proof of life.

In the 5-minute clip, the priest appealed to the President to immediately withdraw thousands of soldiers from the war-torn Marawi City.

Suganob said militants seized him, along with other church workers, including children and adults, mostly Christians, when IS fighters occupied Marawi on May 23. Speaking outside the ruins of buildings destroyed in fierce clashes, Suganob made an emotional appeal to Duterte to save all of them, saying, the militants are ready to die for their religion.

He also asked Duterte to stop military assaults, both in air and on the ground, and for security forces to quickly leave Marawi and Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

It was unknown how many civilians and hostages were killed in military air strikes and artillery fire since the fighting began, but the military insisted over 670 militants had perished in the battle, although it provided little or no proof at all for the huge number of enemy casualties. It said about 150 soldiers and 47 civilians were also slain in the war with nearly 2000 troops wounded in the battle.

The militants occupied Marawi in an effort to put up an Islamic State province in the troubled region, home to some 4 million Muslims and 17 million Christians. The region of Mindanao was previously under the rule of sultans.

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