Marawi men forced to help terrorists
MANILA - Maute fighters and other bandits in Marawi City are using civilians as human shields as government forces gain ground in the campaign to drive them out of the city, a military spokesperson said Thursday.
"The local terrorist group is using children and women as enemy shield or as human shield," regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Joar Herrera said in a press briefing.
He said the extremists have also forced male civilians to help them with logistics, food, and medical support.
"The enemy or the local terrorist group is using madrasas (college for Islamic instruction) as staging areas and using mosques as snipers' nest," he added.
The extremists laid siege to Marawi last May 23, driving most of the city's 200,00 residents to flee while President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of emergency in Mindanao.
About 2,000 civilians however failed to escape the war zones.
The Maute's use of human shields has impeded the movement of troops as it forced the Armed Forces of the Philippines to repeatedly revise its strategy in a bid to protect non-combatants, according to Herrera.
"Our primordial concern is the protection and safety of civilians," the official said.
The AFP has put priority in rescuing civilians and assisting in the local government's relief operations, while also sustaining airstrikes and close-range combat against the extremists.
Herrera said security forces are also validating reports that Maute has recruited the inmates they broke of the Marawi city jail.
The fighting has left dead 164 individuals, including 120 extremists, 25 troops and 19 civilians.