MANILA - Government forces have retaken 90 percent of Marawi City, a week after it was attacked by Maute and Abu Sayyaf bandits, the military said Wednesday.
"Almost 90 percent of the whole city is well controlled by our forces and have been cleared of the remnants of this group. The remaining are areas of pockets of resistance that are still being kept in the hands of these militants," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said in a phone interview with ANC's Headstart.
Padilla said the extremists could be hiding terror leader Isnilon Hapilon as well as weapons in these areas.
State troops aim to recapture the remaining rebel-held areas within the next day, the AFP official said.
NO MILITANT REINFORCEMENTS
Padilla said the military has secured all entry and exit points in Marawi, thus cutting off possible reinforcements for the bandit groups.
He said an apparent surge in the number of rebels could be attributed to the sympathizers they freed from the Marawi City jail.
The rebels, he added, are left with weapons collected from previous extortion activities and those ransacked from the city jail and police station. They could also be foraging for food supplies in abandoned convenience stores.
Padilla said 80 militants have been killed as of late Tuesday.
Recovered from their previous strongholds were high powered firearms, bomb components and terror documents.
The documents prove the terrorists had planned the siege of Marawi even before government forces attempted to arrest Hapilon last week, he said.
Padila said the military is now set to pull out some troops and personnel from the fighting, and deploy them to evacuation efforts and the rescue of hostages.
Among the captives still held by the rebels is Fr. Chito Suganob, parish priest of St. Mary's Cathedral.
"We are exerting efforts through backdoor channeling and other means to negotiate perhaps with these bandits for his release and others that may be in their hands," Padilla said.
"However, we would not like to play in all this propaganda going on. There has been an intense propaganda to hold captive the whole city to influence the decision makers as well as the public."
The violence in Marawi erupted Tuesday last week, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to place the whole of Mindanao island under martial rule.
The government believes the Maute carried out their assault before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to capture the attention of Islamic State and earn recognition as a regional affiliate. -- With Reuters