MARAWI, Lanao del Sur - Snipers of the Maute group were making it difficult for government forces from rescuing wounded soldiers and trapped civilians in this southern city on Sunday, as fighting between state forces and local terrorists entered the sixth day.
Authorities said around 17 non-combatants were reportedly stranded in a building in the downtown area after they sought shelter from the government's surgical airstrikes against the extremists.
The building's fourth and fifth floors reportedly collapsed due to the airstrikes, trapping the civilians on the second floor.
ABS-CBN sources, meanwhile, said several wounded soldiers were also trapped in the city center.
Soldiers and elite policemen from the Special Action Forces have made several attempts to rescue their injured comrades and the civilians.
Snipers, however, have opened fire at the state troops, forcing them to retreat.
VIOLENCE MARS RAMADAN
The military on Saturday said it will sustain the airstrikes to flush out Maute fighters.
The offensives have damaged or destroyed at least 4 houses, including the residence of Lanao del Sur Rep. Jun Papandayan.
The fighting has also made it difficult for Marawi residents to observe Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam, as many continued fleeing to safer ground or grappled with difficult conditions in evacuation centers.
At least 31 suspected terrorists have been killed in clashes since Tuesday, 6 of whom may be fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia, Armed Forces spokesperson Restituto Padilla earlier said.
The government side, meanwhile, has suffered 13 deaths, 11 soldiers and two policemen. There has yet to be a confirmed count on civilian deaths, but nine people were found slain allegedly by the Maute group on Tuesday.
The pandemonium in Marawi erupted last Tuesday after a failed attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the suspected leader of the Islamic State terror group in Southeast Asia. -- report from Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News