MANILA, Philippines – Security forces will not meet the Friday, June 2 deadline set by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to gain full control of Marawi City from the terrorist Maute Group.
“Based on reports we are getting, I don’t think we can meet the deadline today to completey free Marawi of every single armed element in every street,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said in a Palace news briefing on Friday.
“Until such time that every member of this armed group, this rebellious group that still wants to make a stand inside Marawi, exists, we cannot totally say we have cleared Marawi,” added Padilla.
Lorenzana, the administrator of martial law, had set the June 2 deadline for security forces to end the Marawi siege.
Padilla said that as of the latest reports from ground commanders, members of the Maute Group still occupy some commercial establishments in the city.
“The enemy continues to occupy commercial buidlings as their defensible enemy lairs and this is the subject of military action being conducted for the past few days until now,” said the military spokesman.
The armed group has also taken control of some religious buildings, like madrasas, which it uses to stage attacks against the military.
Mosques are being used as “sniper nests” to limit the movement of government forces.
Terrorists have even resorted to the use of civilians, including children, as human shields, making it even trickier for soldiers to neutralize them.
“Compounding the situation on the ground is the use of these forces, these armed elements, of children and civilians as human shields,” said Padilla.
Air strikes continue
Ground commanders in Marawi have also decided to continue their air strikes despite the May 31 air strike that accidentally killed 10 soldiers.
Lorenzana had said on Thursday, June 1, that air strikes may be suspended following the mishap.
Asked if the military will suspend the air strikes, Padilla said, “No, we are not.”
“We continue to apply commensurate military power on these existing threats and pockets of resistance and will continue to do so including the use of air strikes,” he said.
The aircraft and crew involved in the ill-fated air strike have been pulled out of Marawi operations and brought back to their headquarters for debriefing and counseling.
“The worst scenario that can be likened to the worst nightmare for every pilot who tries to assist his fellow uniformed services on the ground is to have a case or incident like this,” said Padilla.
The Philippine Army is in contact with the families of the 10 casualties and will provide assistance.
As of 6 pm on Thursday, 120 terrorists had been killed. Government troops suffered 36 casualties while the number of civilian casualties remained at 19. – Rappler.com