Saturday, August 5, 2017

AFP: Fighting Maute group in Marawi becoming more challenging

From the Sun Star-Manila (Aug 4): AFP: Fighting Maute group in Marawi becoming more challenging
AS CRISIS in Marawi City entered the tenth week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admitted Friday that fighting Islamic State (IS)-inspired extremists in the war-torn city has become more challenging.

"As we go through the military operations, it becomes a very close fight and the complexities on the ground are really becoming much more challenging," AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said in a press conference.

Padilla said the government forces continued to beef up operations against Maute militant group in two villages of Marawi City, which remained "problematic" areas.

On May 23, Maute bandits stormed Marawi City to fulfill their intent to create an Islamic territory for IS fighters in Southeast Asia. The attack coincides with the military's manhunt operation against Isnilon Hapilon, and Abu Sayyaf leader and alleged IS emir.

The armed conflict in Marawi City prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial rule in beleaguered Mindanao to end insurgency of terrorist groups.

The proclamation is extended until end of December this year. Padilla reiterated that the military was determined to regain full control of Marawi City sans target deadline to ensure the safety of the civilians.

"Our troops are in high spirits following that visit and are all raring to execute the succeeding operations on the ground to complete the liberation of Marawi," he said.

"We have not set any deadline. We're giving the troops and the ground commanders all the leeway to execute their plans," he added.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said casualties in the protracted battle between the security forces and Islamist gunmen stood at 686, as of August 3.

They include 522 terrorists, 119 government troops, and 45 civilians.

Padilla said the government could not still heed to the "constant request" of Marawi residents to return home "because of these challenges."

"Our local executives are very much aware of the conditions on the ground, as well as the dangers posed by so many of the risks that they will face in case they are permitted to go without the necessary clearing operations that are conducted by the military," he said.

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