MANILA, Philippines – The death toll in Marawi City has breached the 1,000-mark as troops retrieve 22 more bodies in a former enemy stronghold inside the battle area.
DNA tests are now being conducted by the police Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) to determine if leaders of the armed groups behind the attack are among the remains that were found. Some of the remains are in advanced stages of decomposition.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla said a total of 1,009 have been killed in the war to include 160 government forces, 802 fighters of the local armed groups, and at least 47 civilains.
"The battle is still ongoing. Our troops are focused and determined to finish it as soon as possible but they have to put into consideration the remaining number of hostages which includes a number of children," said Padilla. (READ: The life of Maute hostage in Marawi)
A junior officer of the Army Special Forces was also among those killed recently. First Lieutenant Harold Mark Juan was killed by an enemy sniper while he was leading an assault on Monday, October 9.
Padilla said the death toll will rise as more bodies are expected to be retrieved from the battle area.
The 22 bodies were retrieved from two buildings in the battle area where the enemies had exhibited strongest resistance lately.
Padilla said the military is sure that hostages are not among the remains. "The PNP-SOCO is now determining their identities," Padilla said.
"Interesado rin kaming malaman kung may malaking tao dito sa mga namatay na ito kaya't nakiusap tayo sa PNP na madaliin ang pag-identify sa mga namatay na ito. Maaring may isa diyan o dalawa diyan sa mga kinikilala nating naging leader ng grupong ito ang bahagi ng cadavers," said Padilla.
(We are also interested to know if high-profile terrorist personalities are among the remains so we asked the police to speed up the process of identifying them. It's possible that one or two of the leaders are among the cadavers.)
The government is also checking if foreign fighters are among the dead bodies. (WATCH: U.S. agents check for most wanted terrorists among Marawi bodies)
The enemies are still heavily armed. Padilla said troops recovered from the buildings two rocket-propelled grenades, 4 M16 rifles, and an M14 along with dozens of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
"This must have been the place where these rebels have been manufacturing the IEDs that have been used in the remaining areas of enemy-held territories," Padilla said.
The battle area has narrowed further into 5 hectares, said Padilla.