MANILA - The military on Monday said it is verifying reports that some 10 fighters of the Islamic State-linked Maute group have snuck into Marawi City to reinforce comrades battling state forces.
"Hindi naman po natin batid kung talagang nangyari ito kaya sinisikap na makumpirma ito," Armed Force spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told DZMM.
ABS-CBN News sources earlier said Maute reinforcements took advantage of heavy rains to creep into the battle zone, entering Marawi via Lanao Lake at nighttime, and landing in an area in adjacent Marantao town.
Padilla said the government has implemented a "fishing lockdown" in the 340-square kilometer Lanao Lake to thwart the possible entry of extremists. Fishing in the area is prohibited from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.
About 40 extremists are still holed up in Marawi, over 2 months after they attacked the city on March 23 and prompted a declaration of martial law over the entire Mindanao, Padilla said.
The terrorists, he added, hold 80 to 100 captives, including Fr. Chito Suganob, who was recently sighted by several rescued hostages.
The battle for Marawi has killed at least 562 extremists, 45 civilians and 128 state troops, said Padilla.