The fears are developing for the residents caught in the besieged Philippines city of Marawi following reports that those escaping battling between ISIS-aligned militants and government forces experience as many as 100 dead bodies. On the southern island of Mindanao, Marawi has been under attack for weeks, after taking a shock attack by Islamic militants faithful to Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon in May.
While stressing the reports hadn’t verified independently, assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said, “They have told us that the estimated number of dead bodies scattered around the encounter area is more (or) less a hundred.” He said that the number “needs to be verified first since retrieval operations have no access to these areas where (an) intense firefight is taking place”. “Personal accounts of witnesses, trapped residents who managed to walk to safety crossing the bridge,” he added.
It was still not clear from the records that whether the bodies were of regular people or militants killed in conflicts as government troops clash to regain control of the last neighborhoods still under Abu Sayyaf and Maute control. The fight to eliminate hundreds of ISIS-affiliated militants, mostly from the locally based Maute group, however, associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group of militants has hinted a little sign of resolution as the third week of combating carries on.
The task force spokesperson LTC Jo-Ar Herrera told CNN through a text message that 26 residents had been killed by the Maute militants, in spite of the fact he didn’t expand on how many may have died in government bombardments of Maute locations. The Herrera said that 207 attackers have been killed so far, and 58 government troops had died. He also added that 1,619 civilians had been saved so far.
Froilan Gallardo, a journalist with Mindanao-based Minda News spent the recent three weeks in and around Marawi and explained the once-thriving city as a “Ghost Town”. He says that only a bunch of residents of the city’s estimated 200,000 populations remain, and large areas of Marawi, particularly the downtown commercial district, are ‘devastated’ by the government bombardments. The local Mayor said to CNN on Monday that around 1,000 civilians were caught in the city. Gallardo revealed to the CNN that Philippines forces were “trying to get (the militants) out by bombing the place around the clock even though there are still civilians (in the conflict zone)”. He also said that he chatted with a few people who had recently escaped. One named as ‘Joel Pormilo’, a furniture maker in Marawi, said that his boss had protected him and 15 other employees for two weeks before they came up short of food.
“Then they tried to escape (early Tuesday morning) to go to the government lines, but one of the nephews of the owner was hit by ISIS guns,” in spite of waving a white banner of surrender. Others in the group also died. “There was so much firing, only four of them made it to safety. They jumped into the river and swam downstream around 3 to 4 o’clock in the morning. They swam downstream for 2 to 3 kilometers (1 to 2 miles) and ran to the government bunker,” Gallardo said. The owner Omar Ghani was hailed by the militants, who inquired him if he was a Muslim, Gallardo revealed. “(The) ISIS gunmen gave him two choices, join them or be killed. So he joined.”
Maute relative captured
According to a statement from Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC), a suspected bomb-creator, who is a cousin of the scandalous Maute brothers, Omar and Abdullah, has been arrested in the close-by city of Cagayan de Oro. Mohammad Maute, an Arabic educator in Marawi and suspected member of the Maute group, was captured at his leased home on Thursday morning local time (Wednesday evening ET).
A statement said, “EMC is expecting more arrests in the coming days as tracking and monitoring are intensified against the persons listed in the two orders of arrest issued by the Martial Law Administrator.” A joint police and military raid got Maute after a “concerned citizen” remembered him from wanted posters. He agreed that his relationship with the Maute brothers, whose group is mainly responsible for the attack on the Mindanao city.
Australian Journalist shot
The media outlet reported that ABC’s Southeast Asia journalist, Adam Harvey, is recovering from the surgery in Manila Thursday after being shot in the neck while reporting from the city. The Australian was in a zone considered to be a safe zone when he was struck, the ABC reported. He described the effect to ABC as like being “hit in the neck with a cricket ball” and added that he thought he’d been hit with a touch of shrapnel.
“Then I was taken to a medical center and they took me for observation at another hospital, then they did X-rays and discovered … I’d actually been shot in the neck with a bullet and the bullet was still in my neck. But luckily it missed everything important and it just got lodged behind my jaw,” he added.
How it started
On May 23, the Maute militants raged Marawi, conflicting with government troops and inciting President Rodrigo Duterte to announce martial law in Mindanao. While the ISIS media wing, Amaq Agency, put out a statement announcing that “fighters of the Islamic State launch a wide-scale offensive on positions of Philippine troops in the city of Marawi”. The ISIS-linked groups in the semi-lawless border areas between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia are comprised of fighters from some different countries.
The attack on Marawi unfurled as Muslims worldwide started to mark the holy month of Ramadan. Whereas the Philippines are mainly Catholic, Mindanao has a greater Muslim population. As the battling goes on, deadline after deadline set by the Philippines government for the end of the clash has been missed, including a promise to end the fighting by last Monday, the nation’s Independence Day. On Saturday, a presidential spokesperson said that it would take no less than two more weeks to clear the embattled city.