MARAWI CITY, Philippines – A network of ratholes and trenches that Maute fighters dug in the battle area emerged as troops pushed back the local terrorist groups linked with Islamic State (ISIS) and occupied their former strongholds.
The military allowed reporters to the heart of the battle area on Wednesday, September 13, to see how the war was fought on the ground. It was the 4th month of the war.
In one area, ratholes that can fit 5 people cut through adjacent buildings.
The military presented drone footage of an assault showing how the enemies ran through a network of these holes to escape military bombardment including air strikes.
Trenches were also discovered behind walls with sniper holes, a deceptive tactic that the military said explained why troops sometimes found it hard to see where bullets were coming from.
Lieutenant Colonel Mon Almodovar, commander of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, said the enemies they were fighting were very “dynamic” on the battle field.
“Pinag-aaralan din natin ang kalaban. Ang kalaban kasi very dynamic din sila. Noong una hindi sila naghuhukay. Eventually, habang tumatagal, naghuhukay na sila. Nagta-tunnel na sila. Kumbaga, we have to adopt din sa kanila based doon sa tactics ng kalaban,” Almodovar said.
(We are also studying the enemies. The enemies are very dynamic. They weren’t digging in the beginning. Eventually, as the fighting draffed, they started digging. They created tunnels. We also have to adopt to them based on their moves.)
Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
The military was confronting the combined forces of the Maute Group based in Lanao Del Sur and the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf faction of Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia.
The military believes that the Maute recruits were trained by foreign fighters who reportedly joined the war in Marawi.
The groups that pledged allegiance to ISIS attacked Marawi on May 23 after a botched raid aimed at getting Hapilon, who was spotted in the city.
The military said that bungled raid pre-empted the plan of the enemies of attacking on the first day of Ramadan on May 26.
Nearly 4 months into the war, the military said it was now on its “final push” against the battle area.
Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, said they have restricted the maneuver space of the enemies.
“We concentrate whatever personnel, whatever capability we have at talagang tapusin namin sa isang area at i-push namin sila kung saan namin sila gusto ma-contain (We will really finish this in one area and we will push them to where we want them to be contained),” Bautista said. – Rappler.com