Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bodies scattered on Marawi streets

From the Daily Tribune (Jun17): Bodies scattered on Marawi streets


As the military claimed yesterday that the Islamic State (IS)-inspired groups were cornered in four barangays and state forces approach its goal of purging Marawi City of terrorists, more grim results of the three-week old battle emerged as residents fleeing the besieged city reported seeing dead bodies scattered on the streets.

“Dead bodies, at least 100, scattered around the encounter area,” provincial crisis management committee spokesman Zia Alonto Adiong said.Adiong referred to accounts he had received from fleeing residents. The army has said 290 people have been killed in the more than three weeks of fighting, including 206 militants, 58 soldiers and 26 civilians.

The Department of Justice (DoJ)  also filed charges yesterday against Ominta Romato “Farhana” Maute, the mother of the Maute terrorist group’s leaders Omar and Abdullah, and 10 others for rebellion in the Marawi terror attacks.

The DoJ filed charges of rebellion, a non-bailable offense, before the Cagayan De Oro City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against Farhana, former Marawi City Mayor Fahad Salic and nine others in connection to the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

The criminal charges were filed after government prosecutors found probable cause to accuse the respondents of rebellion after they underwent inquest proceedings at Camp Evangelista, headquarters of the Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division, in Cagayan De Oro City.

Another member of the Maute clan, who was tagged as a bomb-maker, was arrested by combined police and military operatives in Cagayan de Oro City yesterday.

Nabbed was Mohammad Noiam Maute, alias Abu Jadid, a maker of improvised explosive device (IED) and a cousin of Omar and Abdullah.

Jadid, 22, was captured by elements of the Martial law Special Action Group during an operation in Sitio Sta. Cruz, Barangay Macasandig in Cagayande Oro City at around 6:30 a.m.

He is included in the Arrest Order 1 issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, as martial law administrator in Mindanao, against those involved in the ongoing Marawi City siege.

Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, a military spokesman, said troops were advancing toward the commercial center of Marawi City, which is held by the militants who have sworn IS allegiance.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said remnants of the terrorist groups were now limited to four Marawi City barangays.

“Our troops are moving progressively into the interiors of enemy-held areas and this is confined to four barangays, out of 96 barangays in the City of Marawi, four remain to be problematic but of the four not all of these barangays are in their hands, only portions,” Padilla stressed.

He added that military units are significantly making headway into the inner areas of these barangays where they continue to hide.

Padilla said the presence of buildings that are resistant to military firepower poses problem for troops conducting mopping up operations.

“Hence there are times that we need to effect and use heavier ordnance to neutralize targets where particular vantage points are becoming a dangerous approach for our troops,” Padilla said.

“We intend to finish the fight as soon as possible. Our tactical commanders are doing their best,” Herrera said.

Hundreds still trapped

Hundreds of civilians remained pinned down in pockets of Marawi that are controlled by the militants, and they are facing an onslaught of deadly threats including bombs, sniper fire, hunger and a lack of medical care.

Some have made a two-kilometer sprint to safety during the three weeks of conflict, risking being shot at by the militants.

The fighting began on May 23 when hundreds of militants rampaged through Marawi, the most important Muslim city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, waving the black flags of IS group.

The bandits have since withstood a relentless, US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with Filipino troops that have left large parts of Marawi resembling devastated cities in war-torn Syria and Iraq.

One of the keys to their survival has been the trapped civilians, who are acting as human shields in stopping the military from completely destroying the small areas controlled by the gunmen.

Even so, entire streets are now just full of rubble and the military’s bombs have not always hit their targets — with one strike going astray and killing 10 soldiers.

Most of the city’s 200,000 residents fled during the early stages of the fighting. Authorities say anywhere between 300 and 1,700 civilians remain trapped in the militant-held areas.

Twenty-six civilians have been confirmed killed in the fighting but local officials and aid workers believe dozens more have likely died, with their corpses rotting in the militant-held areas, and that conditions are growing increasingly dire as food runs out.

“Some residents are eating (cardboard) boxes. They just dip it in water to soften the material and eat it,” Adiong told AFP, recounting testimonies from people who escaped.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s almost unbelievable to think that people are living this way.”

The military has also reported that the militants are using some civilians as slaves, making them cook and carry munitions.

One survivor who escaped on Tuesday, Christian housepainter Nick Andeleg, 26, said he and his colleagues decided to flee after coming to the realisation that waiting any longer would certainly lead to death.

“We thought we were the only ones left trapped. We felt it was better to try escaping. If we died outside our house, at least we tried to save ourselves,” Andeleg told AFP as he recounted watching bombs destroy houses around him.

“We hid anywhere we could. We’d go under all kinds of furniture: beds, cabinets, in the toilet. We were like rats hiding under anything we could find.”

Camalia Baunto, who has left her six children with her in-laws outside of Marawi, said she was determined to wait for her husband.

She appeared tormented by the wait though, mumbling to herself while sitting alone sometimes, and asking unanswerable questions to others at the government building.

“When is this crisis going to end? When will this chaos be over?”  

11 faces rebellion raps

Aside from Farhana and Salic, also charged in court are Sumaya Bangkit Masakal, Radiea Tugosa Asire, Mariam Ibnu Abubakar, Zafeerah Rosales Musa, Nehreen Macaraya Abdul, Nora Moctar Limgas, Mardiyya Haji Ali, Sumayya Lawi Ali and Noronisa Haji Camal.

Authorities apprehended Farhana and nine others last Friday in Masiu, Lanao Del Sur.

They were caught in possession of one M14 rifle, seven M14 magazine assembly, 136 M14 live ammunition, one scope, two rifle grenades, two improvised rocket propelled grenades and two smoke grenades.

Moreover, authorities arrested Salic last Friday in Misamis Oriental. He was included in the Department of National Defense’s (DND) arrest order number two.

Authorities confiscated from Salic four units of M203 grenade, one M16 rifle loaded with 29 pieces of live ammunition and three pieces of long magazine with each loaded with 30 pieces of 5.56 live ammunition.

Farhana is suspected to be the Maute group’s financier, while Salic’s name appeared in the checks confiscated in one of the terrorist group’s hideout. The nine others were among those arrested with Farhana.

All 11 accused were included in the list of over 300 individuals identified as members of the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf group, and their sympathizers earlier ordered arrested by the government for the crime of rebellion.

Meanwhile, clan patriarch Cayamora Maute was arrested last June 6 at a checkpoint in Davao City along with two other Maute members.

They were charged for rebellion before the Davao City RTC before being brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City for detention.

About 200 individuals, mostly members of the IS-inspired Maute group, were ordered arrested by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in connection to the siege that started last May 23.

Supt. Lemuel Gonda, spokesman of Police Regional Office-10 (PRO-10) said that Jadid was subsequently placed under the custody of Police Station 9 of Cagayan de Oro City police in Barangay Macasandig for proper disposition.

Several other members of the Maute clan had been arrested earlier, led by the family’s patriarch Cayamora Maute, who was nabbed along a checkpoint in Davao City, and Farhana, who was captured in Masiu, Lanao del Sur.

As of yesterday, the IS-inspired terrorists continued to put up resistance against advancing government security forces in Marawi City.

Reports said that firefight erupted anew in some parts of Marawi City where the terrorists are believed holed up.

The military reportedly started the day yesterday by conducting air strike against identified enemy lairs.

Financial aid underway

Financial aid for the victims of the continuing terror siege in Marawi City is underway.

The Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Board of Claims has started processing the applications of financial assistance after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Undersecretary Reynante Orceo visited the victims.

“The state, through the Board of Claims, can show its genuine concern for the victims and impart to them that the government is not indifferent to their plight. The team will provide proper venue where eligible claimants can seek compensation through administrative procedure,” read the two-page DoJ order.

“Armed conflict continues in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Mass evacuations ensued and unfortunately, uniformed personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police as well as civilians died, suffered serious injuries, or needed medical attentions at various hospitals in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and others,” read the order.

The order was issued “to process and determine entitlement for compensation for victims of violence perpetrated by Maute-ISIS in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.”

In the order, the board may approve and award claimants the maximum amount of P10,000.

The claimants, through the aid, can seek reimbursement for expenses incurred for hospitalization, medical treatment, loss of wage, loss of support or other expenses directly related to the injury, whichever is lower.

The processing of applications is pursuant to Republic Act 7309, or “an act creating a Board of Claims under the DoJ for victims of unjust imprisonment or detention and victims of violent crimes for other purposes.”

But the Board of Claims maintained “this is without prejudice to the right of the claimant to seek other remedies under existing laws.”

In related developments, Aguirre said he is looking into the possible financial assistance to be granted for fallen and wounded soldiers in the Marawi siege.

Aguirre, after visiting injured soldiers at Camp Evangelista Army Hospital in Cagayan De Oro City, tasked Orceo, who heads the Board of Claims, to determine the processing financial assistance for the soldiers and of their families.

The Justice chief also gave P50,000 from his personal funds to the Directress of the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital for the needs of the wounded and recuperating soldiers.

“We cannot thank our soldiers enough for their bravery and gallant acts in the defense of our people in Marawi City. This is least we can do for them,” Aguirre said.

Stray bullet hits Aussie correspondent

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday blamed a stray bullet from a sniper that hit an Australian broadcast journalist covering the ongoing Marawi City crisis.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said that Adam Harvey, of the Australian Broadcasting Company, was hit while inside the provincial capitol.

“Suffice to say and thank God he is out of danger and it’s not life threatening. He was just grazed by a stray bullet coming from the other side of the capitol where the area is still a battle field,” said Padilla.

Padilla said that Adam was immediately attended to by medical workers and was subsequently discharged from a clinic.

“What we gathered is in the course of the fight at the other side of the capitol, there have been a sniper bullet that may strayed in the area and accidentally hit the journalist,” he said.

“Thanks everyone - I’m okay. Bullet is still in my neck, but it missed everything important,” he said in a Twitter post.

MalacaƱang yesterday advised journalists covering the crisis in Marawi City to be very careful.

“While I understand that you would not shirk your duty in the pursuit of any story, bear in mind that there’s no story more valuable than one’s life,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“Take the necessary precautions and stay safe while covering conflicts,” he added.

Nonetheless, Abella lauded the dedication done by members of the press at the frontlines of the conflict.

“We call on the media courageously covering the situation in Marawi to remain true to your profession in delivering timely, accurate and relevant news to our people,” he said. “After all, part of any journalist’s sacred calling is to bear witness to the truth,” he said.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) chief Ricardo Jalad confirmed that as of June 14, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Lanao del Sur has reached 324,406 or 66,738 families.

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