Philippine forces in control of Marawi: military spokesman
Philippine security forces are in full control of Marawi City as they hope to end the crisis soon, a military spokesman said on Monday.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, told the Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacanang this was contrary to "fake news" that came out half of the city is controlled by the Maute Terror Group, which started attacking and occupying the city on May 23, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in entire Mindanao.
"Although we do not have a timeline, but we are seeking to end this as soon as possible. Our ground commanders have assured the end is almost there. So, we hope to get a clear results," Padilla said.
"We have complete control of the city, by the way, contrary to what is coming out in social media and other information, perhaps some fake news. It is not true that half of the city is controlled by the rebels, totally untrue. The Armed Forces and the police and all armed---our forces are in complete control of the city except for a certain areas of the city where they continue to hold," Padilla said.
At least 61 Maute Group members were killed along with 15 soldiers and three policemen. Around 19 civilians have perished due to the fighting now on its sixth day.
Sixty soldiers and three policemen were wounded.
The areas where the Maute members have been occupying are the subject of clearing operations, he added.
Padilla could not say how many Maute militants have remained in Marawi, except that the initial information was there were about "40 to 50 armed elements" in the area.
But he said the number could have increased after the terror group freed over 100 prisoners in jail, which they burned during their first day of their occupation of the city.
"So quite a number of those prisoners may have joined ranks with them because some of them were imprisoned for joining the group. We are also aware that there are sympathetic elements that may have been helping and may have also joined their ranks. So as to this exact number of terrorists still remaining, exact figures at the moment are not available," Padilla explained.
He said over 390 trapped residents were rescued.
But they were subjected to questioning and investigation because some of them could be members of the Maute, he added.
Padilla has no estimate as to how many civilians are trapped in the war-torn city.
But he assured the military has the "expertise" and the people to man the equipment to make sure that the "surgical airstrikes" they have been conducting would not hit civilians.
"Please do not underestimate your soldiers. We have been into this fight longer than any country in this part of the world and in anywhere else. And we have and proven ourselves many times over," he said.
The military official also said that the government is investigating the possibility of foreign funding for the Maute Group following the arrest of an alleged Kuwaiti IS bomb-maker and his Syrian wife last April.
"This was the subject of the investigation related to that. And there were some findings but I’m not at liberty to discuss and reveal those, which involve some transfer of funds. But I’m not sure how much this is and how long this has been ongoing," Padilla said.
Padilla said the state security forces have been monitoring the communist New People's Army and the other lawless groups, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
According to him, the BIFF has been part of the Marawi incident.
"They have been providing some sort of support and they in fact have tried to cause some diversionary activities in the areas where they are right now," he said.
As to the NPA, which was directed by the Communist Party of the Philippines to intensify attacks against the security forces following the martial law declaration, he assured that the military is ready to counter them and to protect the people.
Padilla said the military supports the call of the President to the Muslim and NPA rebels to join the AFP so that they could help the government in fighting the terrorists.
He said there is a mechanism of integrating former rebels with the military, similar to the inclusion of former combatants of the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front, which forged a final peace pact with the government in 1996. Celerina Monte/DMS