MANILA - Some 1,000 civilians remain trapped in battle zones in Marawi, the Philippine military confirmed Thursday, as militants linked to the Islamic State dug in for the 17th day of fighting in the southern city.
"Nagre-rely po tayo sa local government na nakakaalam ng kanilang mga constituent. Ayon sa kanila, mayroon pa po sigurong mahigit 1,000 na nariyan pa po, naiiwan base sa kanilang talaan," Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. General Restituto Padilla told radio DZMM.
(We are relying on information from the local officials who know their constituents better. They said over 1,000 civilians are still likely trapped there, based on their tally.)
Most of the city's 200,000 residents have fled since Maute and Abu Sayyaf extremists attacked Marawi City and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao last May 23.
Authorities have rescued 1,600 individuals who had been trapped in areas previously controlled by the militants, Padilla said.
The official added that mobile signals in the war-torn city were not disrupted to allow the remaining trapped civilians to contact authorities.
"Hinayaan po nating magamit pa itong mga services ng ating telecoms para ma-contact natin ang mga naiipit sa loob," said Padilla.
"Mas importante po iyung mga buhay na inonsente na and'yan kaya kung maski ginagamit ito ng kalaban, hayaan na lang muna natin."
Extremists have sustained their siege with bomb-proof tunnels, anti-tank weapons hidden in mosques, human shields and a "mastery" of the terrain.
But as the military keeps up its airstrikes and close combat operations, Padilla said he is confident that the militants will eventually run out of weapons and ammunition.
Padilla said the violence has left dead 20 civilians, 39 state troops and 134 militants of whom about 40 were foreigners.
State troops on Thursday continued to inspect fallen terrorist lairs but continued to encounter difficulty in retrieving the bodies of fatalities.
Padilla urged the public to refrain from sharing inaccurate online posts about the ongoing fighting which could be part of terror propaganda. - With reports from Jeff Canoy and Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News