From Malay Business Insight (May 25): Thousands flee Marawi City after Maute group rampage
THIRTEEN members of the Maute Group have been killed since fighting with government troops erupted Tuesday in Marawi City, the military said yesterday.
But only two enemy bodies have been recovered, said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office.
“Thirteen died from their side, including two body counts. From our side, we have five killed in action and 31 wounded in action. That is only on the side of the AFP,” said Arevalo.
Reports said two policemen died and two others were wounded in the incident.
Thousands of civilians fled the fighting as troops sought to contain the Maute group which took over parts of a city, set a building ablaze, and captured a Catholic priest and other Christians.
Arevalo also said AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez needs two to three more days to clear the entire city of Maute men.
“He says he will be needing two to three days to completely clear Marawi. We have to be very cautious. As we have said they (Maute) have snipers and they laid improvised explosive devices,” he said.
Arevalo reported that government troops have cleared the Amai Pakpak Hospital, the city hall, and the Mindanao State University of Maute members.
As to other areas, Arevalo said: “I don’t have specific information how many.”
He said there are about 50 to 80 Maute Group members still in Marawi City who have to be dislodged.
Tuesday’s raid was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group notorious for piracy, banditry and for kidnapping and beheading Westerners. The military has not explained how the raid on an apartment hideout went badly wrong and resulted in Maute gunmen going on the rampage and taking over roads, bridges, buildings and a hospital.
But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a press conference in Russia on Tuesday night, said the Maute men managed to penetrate Marawi City because of their sympathizers. He said the Hapilon and the Maute Group members posed as civilians, thus they were not initially detected.
Lorenzana said civilians spotted Hapilon in the group and reported his presence to government troops. He said Hapilon’s group was composed of around 100 men, contrary to initial military reports that the group was composed of around 15 men only.
“Hapilon was there, he was seeking medical attention and when he was approached in his hideout or when his safehouse was approached to arrest him, they started firing at our soldiers, that’s why we have this encounter,” said Lorenzana.
Lorenzana said he spoke with 1st Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Roland Bautista on Tuesday night and was informed that soldiers were holding their ground for the night so that more troops can be brought in.
Asked if there was intelligence lapse, Lorenzana said: “I don’t think there is a lapse in intelligence. It’s just appreciation of the intelligence that was lacking there.”
“They were expecting to arrest Mr. Isnilon. They didn’t know that he was backed up by more or less 100 armed fighters but we will be able to contain them as we go along, by tomorrow or the next two days,” said Lorenzana.
Soldiers and rebels set up checkpoints and roadblocks on routes in and out of Marawi as a stream of men, women and children fled. Long queues of pickup trucks and jeeps crammed full of people and loaded with belongings snaked on roads leading into nearby towns.
Battles abated yesterday as the military tried to isolate Maute fighters while awaiting reinforcements to the city of 200,000 people, which an official described as a ghost town. Maute snipers and booby traps were hampering operations, which could last three more days, the military said.
The Catholic Church said rebels had taken hostage Fr. Chito Suganob, a priest at Marawi’s Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians, and several churchgoers.
“They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
“We beg every Filipino to pray fervently.”
Myrna Jo Henry, information officer at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team, said 800 of the evacuees are staying at an evacuation center at the provincial capitol, also in Marawi City.
The others, Henry said, fled to Iligan City and nearby towns. She could not immediately give numbers as to the evacuees who are not staying at the provincial capitol.
Citing information from ARRM Vice Gov. Haroun Alrashid Lucman Jr., Henry said the city proper was like a “ghost town.”
“In the words of our vice governor, (the city proper of) Marawi is like a ghost town. If the description is ghost town, there are probably thousands (of evacuees),” said Henry.
“Based on the report that we got, there was some sort of march out of the city. Many people walked out from the city, there were also a lot of vehicles in the streets, and there were also many checkpoints,” she said.
Henry said the barangays affected by the conflict are Basak Malutlut, Caloocan, Abubakar, and Bangolo. There are close to 100 barangays in Marawi City.
Arevalo appealed to the people not to allow themselves to be used by Maute Group propagandists who have been taking advantage of the social media platform.
“Don’t let yourselves be used for propaganda by the other side. There are a lot of information coming out, like the beheading of people, occupation of (facilities), hostage-taking, among others,” said Arevalo.
“We are not saying outrightly that these are not true but it’s easy to claim these. That’s why your Armed Forces is saying we have to validate these information and we will be the one giving you the true account of the situation,” said Arevalo.
A source said the Maute Group members and their supporters and sympathizers have burned various facilities including the Ninoy Aquino College, the Dansalan College, a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology city jail, and the Maria Auxilladora parish church.
He also said the Maute Group is holding four hostages – Fr. Chito Sucano, Ma Louisa Colina, Wendelyn Mayormita and Crispina Banrang.
The same source said that the Maute Group members are spread in at least 11 barangays -- Basak Malutlut, Bangon, Saber, Tuca, Baggolo, Naga, Monkado Colony, Caloocan, Marinaut, Mapandi, and Matampay.
In a statement, the interior department confirmed that an armed group attacked the Marawi City jail and the Malabang District Jail and freed 107 inmates on Tuesday night.
Citing a report from the BJMP ARRM regional director Mamerto Delloro, the DILG said about 50 Maute members “entered the jail compound, disarmed and tied up the 12 jail officers of the facility, destroyed the jail’s padlocks, and let all the inmates out from their cells.”
“The armed men also carted away assorted issued firearms of the BJMP personnel, two SUVs and two motorcycles, and mobile phones owned by the jail guards on duty,” it also said. It said the group commandeered two prison vans.