MANILA, Philippines – The remains of at least 17 civilians in various stages of decomposition were retrieved in Marawi City on Wednesday, June 28.
Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Crisis Management Committee, said these were all victims of the Maute Group.
“They are already in advanced stage of decomposition,” Adiong said.
Brigadier General Rolando Joselito Bautista, Joint Task Force Marawi Commander, said the cadavers were recovered during retrieval operations of government troops with the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, and civilian volunteers in Barangay Gadungan, Marawi, before noontime on Wednesday.
Bautista said in a statement that the casualties “are believed to be among those civilians” killed by the local terrorists.
He added that authorities are identifying the bodies “for proper disposition and identification…so that their relatives can claim them and provide them a decent burial.”
The bodies were brought to Iligan City.
Local officials previously estimated about a hundred bodies of civilians sprawled on streets inside the combat zone. They couldn’t be retrieved because of the risk of sniper fire from the terrorists who still occupied several villages in Marawi City. (READ: Marawi battle zone: Urban warfare challenges PH military)
In a news briefing in Malacañang, military spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that the terrorists were known to have executed Christians during the “earlier days” of the clashes. The fighting is now on its 37th day.
“In the earlier days of the fighting, there was sufficient proof to believe that there were executions conducted from inside Marawi regarding a number of Christians that were caught,” Padilla said, when asked to confirm reports that the Maute Group had beheaded some civilians in Marawi.
He clarified that the report they received so far was that the Christians were executed by being shot in the back.
There have been reports of executions – some say beheading – as early as Day 1 of the crisis on May 23, circulated by fleeing residents who said they saw the bodies on the streets. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)
The terrorists want to establish an Islamic caliphate in Marawi City, which has a predominantly Muslim population.
The atrocities prompted Muslims families to protect their Christian workers and neighbors. (WATCH: Saving the Christians in Marawi)