MANILA - The military is expecting more firefights in Marawi as troops continue to push towards enemy defensive positions in the city besieged by terrorists since May.
Speaking to reporters, Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander, said they still have at least 200 structures to clear in the main battle zone of the city.
"We will be experiencing more firefights as we try to regain more ground... We were able to recover already the important landmarks," he said Sunday afternoon.
State forces on Saturday were able to retake the Bato Mosque, along with a school, in the war-torn city, rescuing at least two hostages in the process.
Fr. Chito Suganob, a priest held captive by Maute terrorists since the siege began in May, was reportedly one of the rescued persons. But Brawner said he can "neither confirm nor deny" the report.
The military official also said Maute leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute are still in the main battle area, based on intelligence information they have gathered.
"It's very important na makuha natin itong leaders nila para there will be no repeat of the Marawi incident. We do not want this to happen in any other city," said Brawner.
Fighting between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists have been raging for nearly four months in Marawi, leaving at least 845 dead, most of them terrorists, and hundreds of thousands displaced.
The prolonged conflict has left much of the once bustling urban center ravaged, and the government has begun plans for its rehabilitation.