War spares no one. In Marawi City, the fighting’s victims include residents –- both Muslims and Christians — who have become refugees in their own homeland.
Among them are about 300 to 500 civilians, who were trapped in the war between government troops and Maute and Abu Sayyaf extremists, which is now on its 22nd day.
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi, on Tuesday said 18 of these civilians were found by 15 terrorists hiding in a house in the city.
The civilians, who hid since day one of the war and survived on little supply of rice, salt, sugar, and rainwater, scampered to safety but the extremists fired at them indiscriminately.
Five of them — all Christians — were able to escape but another five died, who were also all Christians, according to Herrera of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ First Infantry Division.
“The ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) knocked on the door where the 18 civilians were staying, prompting the civilians to run away, using the backdoor going to the river,” said Herrera.
“The terrorists ran after then and fired on them, killing five of the civilians…,” he added.
The other eight civilians – two Muslims, and six Christians — remained trapped within the enemy’s area and were “taken as hostages,” according to Herrera.
“Naiwan pa ‘yong walo doon. Nagkahiwa-hiwalay sila. Tine-trace pa natin ‘yong location nila. Wala tayong contact sa kanila. We have to establish a contact paano sila ma-rescue,” sad Herrera.
[The eight have remained there. They got separated from each other. We are still tracing their location. We don’t have a contact with them. We have to establish a contact on how to rescue them.]
Herrera said the five latest fatalities were among the 26 civilians who were confirmed killed in the war, while the number of rescued people had increased to 1,628. He said the total enemies killed had risen to 202.
He said five policemen, all Muslims, were also rescued with the five civilian survivors.
“Our forces will continue to execute military operations to save lives. The AFP chief of staff reiterates…guidelines to put premium on civilian lives and properties during operations (and observe) discipline among uniformed men,” said Herrera.