MANILA - Two foreigners believed to be of Middle Eastern descent were among bodies recovered by state forces in Marawi City on Friday.
"Maganda po kahapon, may nakita kaming mga bodies...," said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, in a DZMM interview Saturday.
Galvez said the bodies were already in a decomposing state when discovered. No identification documents were found.
The discovery brings to 10 the total number of foreign fighters killed in clashes in the conflict zone, where Islamic State-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf group terrorists continued to repel state forces.
Earlier, eight foreign jihadists, among them two Malaysians, two Saudis, two Indonesians, a Yemeni, and a Chechen, were confirmed to have been killed in clashes with government troops.
"Build ng katawan at tangkad nila at complexion nila maputi ng konti, also hugis ng ilong at makita yung mukha there's a possibility na Middle Eastern," he said.
Galvez said fighters who had surrendered to authorities earlier spoke of seeing 10 to 15 foreign-looking men fighting with local terror groups.
"Karamihan dito bomb experts, snipers and fighters," Galvez said.
Authorities also recovered 13 firearms, including a sniper rifle, as soldiers pursued clearing operations a month since the conflict began on May 23.
Galvez said 60 structures inside the conflict zone have been cleared as of Friday.
On the reported death of Omar Maute, among leaders of the terror group behind the Marawi siege, Galvez reiterated the military's earlier statements that he was likely killed in firefights two weeks ago.
"All indications, may nagsasabi na si Mohammad Khayam Maute o Otto at si Omar, malaking indication na namatay na po sila dahil sila po ay nandoon sa bakbakan [sa] Moncado Colony. Sa aming analysis, wala na po sila," Galvez said.
However, he said, the military has yet to recover their bodies.
"Yung naka capture nating 23, ang nabanggit na lang nila, si Abdullah, dalawa na lang sa magkapatid ang nabanggit nila," he said.
A police intelligence report obtained by Kyodo News said 89 foreign terrorists were in different areas in Mindanao. They include Indonesians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Arabs, Bangladeshis, one "Indian-Singaporean," and a Singaporean.
Speaking to reports on Thursday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año also cited the presence of suspected foreign terrorists in southern Philippines amid continuing firefights in Marawi City.
Islamic State's presence has raised alarm in the region, as the international terror group is believed to be establishing a foothold in Southeast Asia as it lost territory in Iraq and Syria.
Earlier this week, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to enhance cooperation in efforts to quell terrorism. The three countries also launched trilateral border patrols to prevent the movement of Islamic jihadists, some of whom were known to have entered the Philippines' backdoor.
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, government placed the death toll in Marawi City at 375, among them 280 terror suspects, 69 government troops and 26 civilians.