MANILA - Military operations against Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City are now confined to less than a square kilometer more than two months since clashes erupted in May, the military said Friday.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the military continues to deal with complications in Marawi even as fighting has been concentrated in two barangays.
Among such challenges is the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in parts of the city that have already been cleared.
He appealed for patience from displaced residents, saying the military must first make sure that the city has been completely cleared of unexploded IEDs before allowing them to go back.
"Kaya kinakailangan lang pong konting pasensya na lang at ating sinisikap na gawin ang ating makakaya para matapos po ito, para 'pag nagsabi po tayo na pwede na po kayong bumalik at pwede na pong isaayos lahat, makakasigurado kami na ang pagbibigay ng abisong 'yan ay batay po sa pagkakaroon ng pagka-kumpletong pag-clear sa buong kalooban ng Marawi sa mga bombang hindi pumutok, sa mga traps na maaaring iniwan nila at iba pang IEDs na nakakalat," Padilla said.
Meanwhile, at least two members of the New People's Army were recently arrested in Bukidnon. Soldiers and civilians said the rebels were responsible for planting bombs around the area.
"Ang nakakabahala lang po doon eh 'yung isa sa mga nahuli ay nagpapanggap na isang miyembro ng party-list. Eh sana naman po, 'yung party-list na 'yun ay tingnan mabuti kung sino 'yung kanilang kinukuha dahil iba po ang nagiging pakay at nagiging cover po 'yung kanilang pagiging miyembro ng party-list na 'yon," he said.
Padilla added that civilian safety continues to be of primary concern. At least 300 individuals remain unaccounted for in Marawi, while 80 to 100 civilians are feared to still be held hostage by the Maute group, the terror organization behind the siege.
The military on Thursday said around 50 to 70 Maute extremists are still holed up in the besieged city.
Fighting between government forces and Maute extremists in Marawi City broke out on May 23 and has left at least 674 dead, among them 513 terrorists, 116 state forces, and 45 civilians dead.