Marawi death toll rises as govt grapples with terrorist rumors

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2017 09:50 AM | Updated as of May 25 2017 10:26 AM

Residents fleeing from Marawi, where gunmen rampaged through the southern city, walk past a checkpoint at the entrance to Iligan Wednesday. Ted Aljibe, AFP

MANILA - Gun battles between the government and extremist groups in Marawi City have left at least 7 people dead, the military confirmed Thursday, as it scrambled to verify reports of a terrorist-led jailbreak and the alleged massacre and abduction of civilians.

Among the fatalities were 5 soldiers and 2 policemen, who sought to flush out Maute and Abu Sayyaf bandits that torched and occupied several vital installations on Tuesday. Twenty-one state troops meanwhile were wounded, ABS-CBN's Chiara Zambrano reported.

Thirteen extremists meanwhile were killed in the skirmishes.

Authorities however have yet to confirm the number of slain civilians amid social media reports that the extremists allegedly singled out and killed several residents.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Col. Edgar Arevalo said the military recovered the bodies of a police chief inspector, an ambulance driver, and a Maute bandit at the Amai Pakpak Medical Hospital (AMPH) on Wednesday.

Seventy-eight hospital workers and construction workers were rescued there, Arevalo said.

The AMPH was previously held by Maute and Abu Sayyaf, along with the Mindanao State University and the city hall, Arevalo said.

The official said they were still validating a report that terrorists snatched off a parish priest and about a dozen parishioners from St. Mary's Cathedral.

Intelligence units, he added, were also seeking confirmation on reports that the terrorists on Tuesday freed about a hundred inmates from the city jail.

Arevalo said rebel forces are still scattered throughout the city.

"May mga snipers pa sila na nasa tuktok ng structures natin diyan na na-o-occupy nila. Nag-lay rin po sila ng improvised explosive devices," he said.

The military has sent reinforcements to Marawi, but their arrival has been delayed as residents left the city in droves and choked up roads and checkpoints, Arevalo said.

A government troop stands on guard checking vehicles evacuating residents from their hometown of Marawi city in southern Philippines, as it drives past a military checkpoint in Pantar town, Lanao Del Norte, Wednesday. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

Fifty-percent of reinforcements have entered the city as of Wednesday afternoon. Arevalo said their deployment is expected to be completed early Thursday.