ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Marawi City crisis will be over a week at most or next Friday, June 2.
“We expect it between two days to one week from now,” Lorenzana told Rappler in Iligan City.
Lorenzana said this means the military would have taken control of streets and buildings of Marawi City. “Either we neutralize them or they have run away,” he explained.
Lorenzana also said Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the target of a military raid in Marawi, is believed to be still inside the city.
Hapilon is a high-value target because he is reportedly the direct link between the international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) and its local sympathizers.
Hapilon is believed to have joined the Maute Group in central Mindanao to fulfill supposed instructions from ISIS to establish a caliphate here.
Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said the military is confronting less than a hundred terrorists.
“We have total control of the area but it is not cleared. We call this an urban terrain, midland operations in urban terrain. That means we have to clear one house at a time,” said Año.
At least 13 soldiers were killed since clashes started on Tuesday, May 23. More troops are arriving over the weekend.
Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, military spokesman on the Marawi crisis, said the timeline is possible because of a number of developments. The military has augmented its troops as it steps up the offensive against the terrorist groups and the Marawi people have been offering information on the location of the enemy.
“It is very possible because of the dynamics happening now,” he said. “We continue to push out the remants of [the] local terrorist group. We are still using precision air strikes to neutralize the bandits. We give primordial concern to the safety of our people, the safety of the Maranao,” Herrera said.
The military also added security detail for government agencies distributing relief goods.
“We have augmented troops to facilitate services. We have already integrated our civil military operations soldiers to provide the relief packs to those who need food and water,” Herrera said. – Rappler.com