MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A total of 165 government forces gave their lives to liberate Marawi City from armed groups that sought to carve their own territory, based on latest numbers issued by the military.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared on Tuesday, October 17, that the city has been liberated from “terrorist influence,” a day after troops killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. It’s a week short of the war reaching 5 months.
A total of 158 soldiers and 7 cops paid the ultimate sacrifice, according to Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla.
It’s one of the longest, biggest, and bloodiest Philippine military operations in recent history. Urban warfare proved difficult for troops used to fighting in the jungles.
The first big urban war the military fought was the siege of Zamboanga City in 2013. But the area was much smaller – about 5 coastal barangays – and the city center was untouched. It lasted 3 weeks and killed 19 soldiers.
The highest-ranking officer to die in Marawi was Captain Rommel Sandoval. He was killed in one of the most difficult assaults in Marawi, the retaking of the multiple-floor commercial complex C&D Centerpoint or what soldiers refer to as “Land Bank” because of the bank that occupied the ground floor of the building. (READ: How an Army captain died saving his soldier in Marawi)
The top leaders behind the siege are among 847 fighters the military said they killed in the battle area since the war erupted on May 23.
The military reported that at least 47 civilians were killed inside the battle area but local officials expect this number to increase when mopping up operations are done.
Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said there are a few dozen fighters remaining in the battle area but he claimed they no longer pose a threat after the death of the leaders and the release of most of the hostages. (READ: PH military continues hunt for Malaysia’s top militant Mahmud Ahmad)