MARAWI CRISIS | Some rebels send surrender feelers as govt troops advance

September 11, 2017 - 5:59 PM
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Marawi structures smoldering
Marawi structures smolder after more than three months of armed conflict. REUTERS photograph.

ISLAMIC CITY OF MARAWI – Some Islamic State-linked militants have sent “feelers” they are prepared to surrender after three and a half months of fighting, the military disclosed on Monday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has used loudspeakers urging militants to give themselves up, telling the estimated 50 to 60 fighters left in the city their lives would be spared if they disarm, change out of their black clothes and walk to a designated location.

“We hope to see surrenders within the next days,” local command spokesman Colonel Romeo Brawner told a news conference.

“There are feelers. Definitely, there are feelers,” he added, declining to elaborate.

The surrender offer came after a renewed, if short-lived, effort by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to start back-channel talks with militants, with a former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Ali to have acted as an intermediary.

Duterte on Saturday ruled out the possibility of allowing rebels to flee in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages.

Two troops were killed at the weekend, taking to 147 the number of security forces killed in the Marawi conflict. Some 655 militants and 45 civilians have been killed, according to the army.

Troops were engaged in running battles with the militant alliance, led by Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute of the Maute group, and Isnilon Hapilon, a factional head of the Abu Sayyaf group, and Islamic State’s so-called “emir” in Southeast Asia.

More than 20 structures were captured, many laden with booby traps. Some were commercial high-rise buildings that have been used as sniper positions to thwart government forces.