Lorenzana on Marawi crisis: 'We still have 36 hours'
MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is sticking to his self-imposed deadline to finish the crisis in Marawi by Friday, June 2.
"Hopefully 100% of Marawi City," Lorenzana told Rappler in a text message at noon on Thursday, June 1, when he was asked what the military can achieve by Friday.
Asked if it is still "achievable," the retired Army general said: "Oo naman (Of course). We still have 36 hours."
Lorenzana announced the ambitious deadline last week, May 26, during the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to a military camp in nearby Iligan City. (READ: Marawi crisis over in a week or less)
Thursday marked the 10th day of the Marawi City crisis and the military has taken 3 critical bridges going into the heart of the areas occupied by the Maute Group.
"We secured the bridges and we're pushing toward to the lair of the enemy," said Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera.
The military says up to 50 militants including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon are still fighting government forces inside barangays where at least 2,000 residents are trapped, said Herrera.
The location of abducted priest Father Teresito Suganob also remains unknown. He is just one of a number of residents reportedly abducted by the Maute Group.
"We’re still validating the propaganda being circulated in social media. But in a certain way, your Armed Forces of the Philippines is doing its best to facilitate the release of hostages and trapped civilians," said Herrera.
On Thursday, news also broke out that at least 10 soldiers were killed in military air strikes. Lorenzana said it was likely a "pilot error."
Regional Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong reiterated calls by local officials to stop the air strikes to allow humanitarian work to proceed. An earlier request was rejected by the military, saying the air strikes are needed to destroy the Maute Group's defenses.
Adiong said they are appealing to the military to "resort to other mechanisms."
Up to 120 terrorists, 25 soldiers, and 19 civilians were killed, according to a military report. It appears that the military record still does not include the 10 deaths from the airstrikes.
Most of the city's about 200,000 residents have fled. They are not allowed to go back yet even if their barangays have been declared "cleared of Maute presence." – Rappler.com