Government forces have regained control of at least 54 buildings in Marawi City occupied by the Islamic State-linked Maute group as the conflict entered its 51st day, a military spokesperson said Wednesday.
“Ang ginagawa po natin ngayon dito ay nagpapatuloy pa rin ang ating combat clearing operations upang tapusin na po ito at dahil marami pa ring mga portions sa main area na ngayon ay ginagawang defensive position,” Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera said in an interview on GMA News’ Unang Balita.
“Kahapon lamang po meron po kaming naclear na mga around 54 na mga buildings… ngayon ay sa gobyerno na po ang area na ito,” Herrera added.
He earlier said that 800 buildings have yet to be cleared in Marawi, where members of Maute group, mostly snipers, are believed holed up.
He had also said that more or less 80 members of the Maute-led group were in Marawi.
The military has been conducting airstrikes to flush out the militants from the buildings within the city’s business district.
Herrera said during the interview that Abdullah Maute is still in command of the remaining Maute members, while they have yet to confirm the location of Isnilon Hapilon, the appointed “emir” or leader of ISIS in the Philippines.
“Itong si Abdullah Maute na ngayon ay siya po ang nauuna dito sa main conflict area ito ay namomonitor na nandito pa siya. Si Isnilon Hapilon hindi siya masyado naririnig most likely may mga balita na siya’y nakaalis na pero ito ay kino-confirm pa. Marami po kasing lumalabas na misinformation at ito po ay tuloy tuloy nating mino-monitor,” Herrera added.Herrera, meanwhile, declined to directly comment on the possible extension of President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.
He said it would depend on the decision of his superiors in the military and Malacañang.
“Well ito pong decision ng extension ng martial law ay wala po dito…ito po ay desisyon sa headquarters, sa Malacañang,” Herrera said.
As of July 9, 6 p.m., 39 civilians were killed by the terrorists while 1,723 were rescued.
The number of militants killed rose to 379 and the government troops’ fatalities in the conflict has increased to 89.
Duterte earlier indicated that he needs 15 more days to end the crisis in Marawi. He also mentioned that he will once again try to go to the besieged city this week.
He declared martial law in Mindanao after the Maute group’s attack in the city last May 23.