MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine military rescued over a dozen hostages in Marawi City on Wednesday, October 4, as troops pushed to corner local terror groups toward Lake Lanao.
At least 17 hostages were rescued, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. It’s Day 135 of the crisis that erupted on May 23.
“It is true that 17 more hostages were rescued in Marawi – 9 males and 8 females, ages ranging from 18 to 75,” Lorenzana told Rappler.
“Details of the rescue [are] confidential because efforts to rescue the remaining hostages are still ongoing,” he added.
The military earlier said there are about 40 hostages remaining in the battle area. All of them were previously hidden in one area – the men kept in Bato Mosque, a former enemy stronghold, and women in an adjacent building.
The hostages are believed to have been separated after the Maute Group terrorists – along with the hostages – were forced to abandon the mosque when they were overwhelmed by troops.
Troops were also able to retrieve piles of bodies in the mosque. Forensic experts are now checking if among the bodies are personalities who led the attack, such as Abu Sayyaf leader and supposed Islamic State emir Isnilon Hapilon.
Three other Muslim hostages were rescued after Soganub and Acopio, indicating that the terrorists did not only take Christians as hostages. The Muslim hostages supposedly led the other Christian hostages in Muslim prayers.
The hostages were forced to serve the Maute terrorists in various ways. They cooked for them, took care of the injured fighters, and helped manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs). (READ: The life of a Maute hostage in Marawi)
The military launched the final push to end the war in early September after soldiers believed they had penetrated the enemy’s final defensive positions. Hostages and IEDs slowed down troop movements.