The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Monday expressed its belief that Abdullah and Omar Maute and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon are still in the main battle area inside Marawi City.
In an interview, AFP Public Affairs Office chief Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, said that based on the monitoring done by troops on the ground, the terrorist leaders are still in the area and has not escaped.
“Yes, for the record ang ating monitoring ay kasalukuyan pa rin silang nanduruun sa Marawi. Kagaya ng lagi nating binabanggit this is good news para sa atin, sapagkat at least sa kabila nung nangyaring kaguluhan, kasiraan at nagpapatuloy pang bakbakan at least alam natin na yung ating hinahanap kasalukuyan pang nandun sa area (Yes. for the record our monitoring indicates that they are still there in Marawi. Like what we stated this is good news for us because at least despite the ongoing conflict, destruction and gun battle at least we know that the people we are looking for are still in the area),” Arevalo said.
“And we hope that we will be able to neutralize them then and there upang hindi na nila maipagpatuloy pa, magkaroon pa sila (so that they could not continue the) next chapter o pagpapatuloy ng kanilang atrocity, terrorist activity in other parts of the country,” he added.
When asked if the three HVT (high-valued targets) are hidden inside a mosque together with the other hostages, Arevalo said they could not say that.
“Sa mosque? Hindi ko, hindi namin masabi (We cannot say) where exactly there are kung nandun sila sa (if they are inside the) mosque. But what we can say is they are still within the main battle area,” Arevalo said.
“We have received a similar report and we are currently validating it. But we just cannot tell you specifically what we going to do because those are operational details, those are matters of operational security which we cannot tell,” he added.
Arevalo assured that the AFP is sincere and firm in its desire of ending the rebellion in Marawi which is already close to three months.
“And we are going to exert all efforts within the limits and bounds of the law to defeat the enemy. Like what we previously stated we are always observing the rules of engagement and we are going to get the remnants of the Daesh-inspired Maute Group,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo said to ensure that they would learn something from the Marawi experience, they evaluate their operations on a day-to-day basis and file up their observations.
“Every day na nagsasagawa tayo ng ating operations ay pinag-aaralan natin on how we are faring and how we’ll be able to defeat the enemy. So itong mga ito ang iko-compile natin, pag-aaralan at gagawa ng mga pagbabagong kinakailangan in terms of our doctrines,” Arevalo said.