'200 to 250' terrorists hold out in Marawi City
MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Up to 500 local and foreign terrorists banded together to seize Marawi City on May 23, according to adjusted government estimates released on Saturday, June 3.
There are "200 to 250" of them left, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a news briefing at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol in Marawi City on Saturday.
The government reported up to 120 terrorists killed in heavy clashes that drove almost all of the residents to flee the city. (READ: ISIS is in the Philippines – Lorenzana)
"Minus the others we haven’t accounted for, maybe we are looking at another 200 to 250 still hold out there. If they are that many with sufficient firearms and ammunition, then they can still put up a good fight. It is giving us difficulty in clearing the area," Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana brought along the country's top military officers in his first known visit to Marawi City since the crisis began.
Worst is over?
Armed Forces chief General Eduardo said the "worst is over" in terms of the crisis.
"We contained the situation. It is a matter of clearing the remaining areas. We confined Bangolo," Año said.
The government missed its self-imposed June 2 deadline to end the crisis, but Lorenzana assured Marawi residents that the terrorists were now surrounded by troops. The terrain, however, remained a challenge for troops. (READ: Urban warfare still a challenge for soldiers in Marawi)
"The Bangolo area, the central business district, is already surrounded by troops. Hopefully none of those fighters inside that we’re trying to neutralize can get out," the defense chief said.
When asked, Lorenzana said he would not set another deadline on ending the crisis. "Our troops, under the direction of General Bautista and General Galvez, are going to do this slowly. I cannot now tell how many days more but we are going to finish this as soon as possible," he said.
Responding to questions, Año dismissed fears the local terrorist group may get reinforcements from nearby areas.
"That’s the essence of martial law. We control other areas. We have checkpoints in order to prevent reinforcements," the AFP chief said. – Rappler.com
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