Home » News » News Roundup » New Roundup » Featured » Thousands flee Marawi as troops, tanks deployed

Thousands flee Marawi as troops, tanks deployed

25apc copy

Thousands fled strife-torn Marawi City yesterday in anticipation of a government offensive to drive out hundreds of heavily-armed members of the Maute Group who stormed the Muslim-dominated Western Mindanao city Tuesday.

As troops and tanks poured into the city, residents left their homes aboard vehicles and motorcycles toward Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. Many fled on foot.

President Duterte, who cut short his trip to Russia, placed Mindanao under martial law. He arrived yesterday in Manila.

In his arrival speech, Duterte reiterated that he will deal with the militants “harshly” after declaring martial law.

He revealed that the militants beheaded a local police chief.

“The chief of police in Malabang on his way home, going back he was stopped by a checkpoint manned by terrorists and I think they decapitated them right then and there,’’ Duterte said.

The Chief Executive said he may consider other areas in the event the militants seek sanctuary or expand “their terroristic activities.”

He mentioned the central Visayas region where militants recently also launched attacks far from their southern strongholds.

On Tuesday, armed men slipped into the city of 200,000, attacked a hospital, burned a Catholic-run school, freed inmates of a jail facility and took an undetermined number of hostages.

The Amaq news agency, a propaganda arm of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), posted an Arabic advisory, claiming the ISIS-sanctioned attack.

Amaq reported that five alleged spies were killed, but did not elaborate.

The alleged fatalities could have come from the siege of the Amai Pakpak Medical Center and the Dansalan College.

A driver and a security guard were reportedly shot dead during the attack against the hospital. Militants blocked the hospital gate with a commandeered police patrol car installed with the ISIS black flag at around 2:40 p.m.

Bishop Edwin dela Pena confirmed the militants’ torching of the decade-old cathedral inside the school.

In Manila, Archbishop Socrates Villegas said militants have seized a priest and other hostages inside the Cathedral of St. Mary’s. He identified the priest as Fr. Chito Suganob.

“We beg every Filipino to pray fervently for Fr. Chito and other hostages,” said Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Also attacked were the Marawi City and the Malabang District jails where more than 100 inmates were freed.

Jail Senior Superintendent Mamerto Delloro said the militants carted away assorted firearms, stole a Toyota Revo, a Mitsubishi Montero Sports, two prisoner vans, two motorcycles, and the mobile phones of jail personnel.

After sporadic clashes Tuesday that left at least two soldiers and a policeman dead, there were no reports of major encounters yesterday.

The Armed Forces (AFP) also confirmed that 12 troopers were wounded and moved to safer grounds. It did not provide their identities.

Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO), said the military is in full control of the situation and that the militants were contained in one area.

“If they (militants) have areas… buildings or structures occupied, this does not represent the entirety of Marawi City,” Arevalo said.

Arevalo said the troopers’ biggest challenge is how to neutralize snipers entrenched on top of the buildings.

“But your security forces are trained soldiers, they are professionals. What we sent there are tried and tested soldiers because they have to provide the counter-measures we need to do before we can say that Marawi is free from local terrorist group,” he said.

When asked how many troops were deployed to Marawi City, Arevalo said for security reasons he cannot give the exact number of figures.

“I cannot give you the exact number but what I can tell you is that they are coming from different parts of the country. We have been mobilizing them since last night,” Arevalo said.
(Ali Macabalang, Francis Wakefield, Aaron Recuenco, Leslie Aquino, Chito Chavez, and AP)