Over 2,000 still trapped in Maute-held areas: official


Posted at May 28 2017 03:09 PM

Smoke billows behind a mosque in a residential neighborhood in Marawi City due to fighting between government soldiers and the Maute militant group, Sunday. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA - "Sana ma-rescue na ang kapatid ko, 56 years old na siya." 

So said Lynlyn Marohombsar whose sister, Pahlevi, is among hundreds of individuals caught in the week-long fighting between government forces and Maute extremists in Marawi City.

Marohombsar said Sunday he has lost contact with Pahlevi after her cellphone's battery ran out. 
At least 2,279 residents like Pahlevi are stuck in 25 barangays "believed to under the control of Maute," Crisis Management Committee Spokesperson Zia Adiong Alonto said in a press conference. 

"We have tied up with the Red Cross to rescue the stranded victims across the bridge. Unfortunately, we still have to get clearance from the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police)," Alonto said. 

Security forces have yet to allow local officials to deliver food to several evacuation centers that were reportedly running low on supply. 

Some 13,620 individuals or 6,288 families were staying in evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur as of 5 p.m. Saturday, Alonto said. 

Around 42,142 persons or 7800 families meanwhile have fled to nearby towns.

The skirmishes in Marawi erupted Tuesday after troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

Authorities said the militants had killed 19 civilians in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of 200,000 people. These included 3 women and a child who were found dead near a university.

Thirteen soldiers, two policemen and 51 militants have also died in the fighting, according to authorities. This brings the combined official death toll to at least 85.

The military announced on Saturday, the start of the Holy month of Ramadan, that it would intensify the bombing of areas where the militants were believed to be hiding. -- With Agence France-Presse; Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News