The siege on Marawi City in the southern Philippines “may take some time” to resolve, a military spokesman said Wednesday as troops struggled to retake key portions from Islamist militants who have taken refuge in mosques.
Troops are battling about 200 militants holed out in various establishments, including high-rise buildings and mosques, in four districts in Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, according to Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.
Padilla said the military offensive has been hampered by the terrorists’ hiding in mosques, noting that the armed forces have not bombed or attacked such places of worship.
“The armed forces’ leadership is firm in its commitment to use other options that would flush out the [terrorists] from these places of worship that they have converted into machine gun and sniper nests,” he said.
“It may take some time,” Padilla added.
The crisis in Marawi City began on May 23 when hundreds of militants went on a rampage after government forces attempted to arrest a local leader of the Islamic State terrorist network. A total of 290 people have been killed in the violence, while more than 220,000 have been displaced.
The military has already missed two deadlines set by authorities to take control of Marawi City, and no new deadlines will be set, Padilla said.
“We ask for a little more patience, we’re almost there,” Padilla said. “We’re just being careful to avoid hurting others, that’s why we are careful in entering the city.”