MANILA - State troops in Marawi are battling not just Islamic State-linked terrorists but also a smaller and equally fatal enemy: dengue-carrying mosquitoes, the military said Monday.
"Unsanitary na po talaga ang battle zone, hindi na po ganoon ka-safe kaya maaaring nag-breed na po ang mga lamok na ito at nagiging sanhi po ng sakit na iyan," Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told DZMM.
(The battle zone is already very unsanitary and no longer sage so mosquitoes may have bred there.)
A newspaper report earlier said at least 25 soldiers in Marawi have contracted dengue, typhoid fever and diarrhea due to the poor environmental condition in the city.
In the interview, Padilla said the government has distributed insect repellent among soldiers. Defogging operations to clear out potential breeding grounds of mosquitoes will have be postponed while the battle for the lakeside town rages.
Padilla said troops also regularly receive potable water supply to prevent a repeat of the diarrhea outbreak that swept their ranks during the battle's earlier days.
Philippine troops have been battling hundreds of pro-Islamic State militants who seized Marawi City since May 23. The crisis has killed about 600 people and displaced close to 500,000 residents in Marawi and other parts of Lanao del Sur.
ABDULLAH MAUTE KILLED?
Padilla said authorities are also verifying reports that Abdullah Maute, one of 2 brothers leading the terrorist siege of Marawi City, has been killed in government offensives.
"Mayroon po kasing natanggap na unverified information ang ating mga tropa sa ibaba na mayroon daw pong isang mataas na leader na siyang nasawi nitong kamakailan," he said.
"Pero hindi pa po natin batid kung sino ito at kung saan ito nangyari. Patuloy pa po nating sinisikap na malaman ito."
(Our troops on the ground have received unverified information that a top leader of the terrorists was killed recently. We still do not know however his identity and where the incident occurred. We are still trying to verify this.)
He also confirmed that the extremists still hold 80 to 100 captives, including Catholic priest Chito Suganob.
"Ayon po sa salaysay ng ilang nakatakas po sa loob nitong mga nakaraang linggo, nariyan pa rin po si Fr. Chito at patuloy na ginagamit nila sa pagtulong sa pagpapakain ng mga kasamahan nila at ng ibang hostages," Padilla said.
(Several people who escaped the war zone these past weeks said Fr. Chito was still alive and still being ordered to help feed the terrorists and their hostages.)