Some 35 days into the military’s violent standoff in the Islamic City of Marawi with elements of the terrorist Maute Group, the government indicates that security forces continue to make headway piling pressure on the remnants still holding out in increasingly constricted enclaves of the city.
The Maute Group has manifested allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and has been joined in Marawi by a band of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) led by its sub-leader Isnilon Hapilon.
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, Spokesman of the Joint Task Force Marawi, told journalists: “Definitely, we are winning. In terms of recovery of war material, we have 360 high powered weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition. Fuel bombs … Several cadavers, including two that appear to be Middle-Eastern in appearance. Now are in the process of conducting investigation of the identities.”
An eight-hour lull was effected in deference to the observance of the Islamic Eid al-Fitre marking the end of the religious period of Ramadan, during which silence permeated throughout and the rare chirping of birds could be heard.
Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, OPAPP, leveraged the tranquil pause to lead a rescue mission to extricate civilian non-combatants.
Among the persons they extracted from the conflict zone were: Lando Albasite, 47 years old;
Jane Palacio, 22; Moan Alabiste, 27; Joy Upong Alabiste, 20; and Joan Alabiste, two years old.
The Maute Group’s followers are said to continue holding Catholic priest Fr. Chito Suganob captive.
After that, hostilities resumed with air strikes and furious exchanges of angry fire, spawning thick smoke above the city.
In the meantime, the military reported having cleared 85 buildings that have been wrested from the control of the terrorists.
Lt. Col. Herrera said among the weapons recovered were sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other anti-tank weapons.
“We are trying to validate intelligence tips that they are experiencing possible leadership problems. Also: Ammunition running short. Attrition of space and limited maneuver room. They are in increasingly constricted defense position. Issues of finances and decision making processes. Some apparently want to just escape because of unforeseen circumstances and situations that did not materialize as planned, but there are others who want to stay behind and fight it out. There are groups who wanted to stay behind. There were also indications of inter-tribal differences that contribute to the weakening of their ranks.”
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