MANILA, Philippines – More than two weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte announced Marawi’s liberation, the Philippine military admitted that a number of terrorist stragglers continued to pose a threat to security.
Armed Forces spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla said on Friday, November 3, that Marawi still has “remaining pockets of enemy presence and continues to be a dangerous place.”
“The main battle area, where most of the very heavy fighting occurred in the last few weeks prior to the liberation and the cessation of combat operation, still harbors a number of stragglers,” he said, speaking at a Malacañang news briefing.
He was unable to give the exact number of “Maute stragglers” but said their presence in the city is why soldiers continue to face threats during clearing operations.
At least 7 soldiers were injured during an encounter with stragglers. During these encounters with stragglers, the military was able to kill at least 3 of them.
Most of the stragglers are thought to be hiding in 3 buildings within the main battle area.
Padilla downplayed concerns that the presence of these stragglers in the city and their continued efforts to hurt government forces might mean that Duterte’s announcement of Marawi’s liberation was premature.
He said the presence of stragglers has “no bearing” on Marawi’s liberation status since they can no longer carry out any major attacks.
“They are leader-less, they have no direction, they are merely fighting for survival. So they have no impact on the overall security of the place,” said Padilla.
He stressed that some displaced Marawi residents can still return to their homes if these are in areas already cleared by the military or are “not adjacent or near” where the stragglers are known to be hiding.
Only some 16 barangays or villages, said Padilla, have not yet been deemed safe by the military.
Duterte announced Marawi’s liberation on October 17, after 5 long months of battle against terrorists inspired by the Islamic State (IS). – Rappler.com