MANILA - The Lanao del Sur government on Tuesday expressed concern that up to 100 more corpses could be recovered in Marawi City as government forces come close to defeating rebel forces after a week-long saga of gun battles and airstrikes.
The unverified number of fatalities was reported by residents rescued from war zones, callers of Lanao's emergency hotline, and civilians who reported missing relatives, according to Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the provincial crisis management committee.
Adiong said local officials are waiting for a lull in the fighting to verify the reports and rescue trapped civilians.
The crisis management committee earlier said most of the city's 200,000 residents have fled since militants torched several buildings and battled state forces, but 2,000 were trapped in areas controlled by the militants.
The skirmishes left 80 militants and 20 state troops dead as of late Tuesday, the military said. Malacañang meanwhile confirmed that 19 civilians were killed, bring the total death toll to at least 119.
Government forces on Wednesday have retaken 90 percent of Marawi City, a week after it was attacked by Maute and Abu Sayyaf bandits, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said.
Padilla said the military is now set to pull out some troops and personnel from the fighting, and deploy them to evacuation efforts and the rescue of hostages.
Security forces, he added, continue their tight watch of all entry and exit points in the southern city.
The violence in Marawi erupted Tuesday last week after a botched arrest operation against terror leader Isnilon Hapilon, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to place the whole of Mindanao island under martial rule.
The government believes the Maute carried out their assault before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to capture the attention of Islamic State and earn recognition as a regional affiliate. -- With Reuters; Ron Gagalac and Edwin Sevidal, ABS-CBN News