LANAO DEL SUR – First, ISIS shot at them. Then soldiers arrested them. In between, they swam the Agus River to stay alive.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: This is the reality in Marawi City.
While elite forces move to close in on the enemy they’re also rescuing residents trapped in the combat zone.
These women and children rescued by the Army Scout Rangers are one street away from safety, trapped by enemy snipers engaging the troops.
On Wednesday, the snipers are dealt with.
A vehicle finally comes to take them to a place far away from the firefights.
But there are areas in Marawi the military has yet to reach.
Residents are trapped in places controlled by the local terrorists.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: Every time we step out of the house we take refuge in I’m sure we’ll be gunned down. Bullets are whizzing by near us.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: Do you see the soldiers?
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: No soldiers. Just ISIS troops. ISIS occupies the mountain near Lasoreco
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: Abdullah, his son, and some of his friends stick together.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: We escaped from Tulali. We spent two days in the mountain. There’s nothing to eat there. Just water. I told my companions we needed to find a way to escape.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: They decide to sneak out through the Agus river, brave the strong currents and swim their way to safety.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: I said, don’t run even if helicopters pass by. We might get mistaken for ISIS.
They followed my instructions.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: They swim for an hour until they reach a riverbank near the city hall. The soldiers are there.
First, they have to wash their clothes by the river.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: We took a bath. We washed our clothes. We couldn’t smell our clothes anymore.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: Then they cook some food.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: I told them, ‘Let’s cook because I don’t have the strength to climb up there anymore.’ We brought some rice grains with us, although it’s been mixed with soil. We still cooked it. We shared the meal.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: What happens next is another brush with death.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: When we reached an area near the jail, soldiers arrested us. They said, ‘you shouldn’t be there. You’re all dead. We said, ‘look at our I.D.’s.’ they said, ‘don’t bring them out. You will die.’ They didn’t want to see our I.D.S to prove that we are not ISIS! But a cop, who is Muslim like us, arrived. He said, ‘don’t touch them. They are Muslims.’ he helped us. I really told myself, I was going to die here. Allahu akbar, that’s what I said. The soldier clicked his gun.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: They are finally brought to the capitol. Their identities check out. There’s no trace of the day’s ordeal on their faces. Abdullah is happy to be able to charge his phone and take videos of the commotion around him. It’s only when he talks about his family that he breaks down.
ABDULLAH LINOGAMAN, MARAWI RESIDENT: I’m very very happy. I might be able to see my wife and my children. My children are still very little.
CARMELA FONBUENA, REPORTING: The swimmers are safe, but they leave behind others – women, children, and elderly. In Manila, the military assures the public they have Marawi City under control.
Down here we hear stories like Abdullah’s, and it’s hard to see the crisis ending soon.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Marawi City. – Rappler.com