ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine Marines succeeded in pressing forward in Marawi City to continue to limit the area where terrorists from the Maute Group can operate. But it came at a high price.
They lost 13 men, including an officer, in a day-long, fierce close quarter battle with terrorists in Marawi City on bloody Friday, June 9. Another 40 marines were wounded.
Among the latest casualties is 1st Lieutenant Frederick Savellano, who led the team that found the P52.2-million stash and arms cache of the Maute Group in a house.
Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera said intense firefight erupted while the marines were conducting combat clearing operations. They were confronted with improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.
Herrera said the marines couldn't fight back as hard because the terrorists were using civilians as human shields.
"The key component we saw in the firefight with the marines was how the terrorists are using mosques. The enemies took defensive positions there. They also used civilians as human shield," he said.
Herrera emphasized that the marines were on the offensive and were pushing forward when the 13 were killed.
"Tayo ang nagmo-move forward. Tayo ang lumalapit sa position ng kalaban. Sobrang malapit na tayo sa positions. Kaya mapapansin niyo mas lumakas ang firefight. Hindi tayo umaatras. Tayo ang nagko-conduct ng offensive position," he said.
(It's the military that's moving forward. We are appoaching enemy positions. We are very near their positions. That is why, if you notice, the firefights became more intense. We are not retreating. We are taking an offensive position.)
Rappler learned that other units also reported critical injuries.
"Malakas pa sila (They are still strong)," said a military officer involved in operations.
After relative silence in the battlefield, heavy firefight and loud explosions were followed by airstrikes on Friday afternoon.
The military suffered heavy losses on the same day Manila proclaimed plans to "liberate" the city by Monday, June 12, or when the country celebrates the country's Independence Day.
But there are still over 200 terrorists and about a hundred hostages inside the combat zone that is estimated to have a radius of about two kilometers, considered a big area in urban warfare. – Rappler.com