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Marawi fighting confined in business district

The Armed Forces yesterday said fighting in Marawi is now confined in Bangolo, the city’s business district.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said government troops are gaining headway in their efforts to clear the city of Maute Group terrorists.

“Talagang lumiliit na ’yung mundo nila (Maute) kasi paatras sila ng paatras,” Padilla said.

AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said troops have regained control of half of the city’s financial district which he said measures three kilometers across and three kilometers wide.

Padilla said what slows down the troops’ advance are snipers positioned in strategic areas.

“Our troops are careful when moving in,” Padilla said.

Padilla also said that as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the number of casualties is close to 200.

Thirty-nine soldiers and policemen, 134 terrorists, and 20 civilians have been killed. A total of 150 firearms were recovered.

The number of civilians rescued is 1,545.

Meanwhile, Cayamora Maute, the 67-year-old father of Maute terrorist leaders Abdullah and Omar, and three companions were flown to Manila at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, martial law spokesman for the Eastern Min-danao Command.

Gapay said Cayamora and his second wife, Kongan Alfonso Ba-lawag, their daughter Norjannah Balawag Maute, and her alleged partner Benzarali Tingao were charged with “illegal possession of firearms and explosives” during inquest proceedings Wednesday.

Police recovered a .45 caliber and a grenade on their vehicle, a black Toyota Grandia, whose owner has yet to be determined by the military, according to Gapay.

He said the vehicle came from Cotabato City and then travelled to Sultan Kudarat where they picked up Cayamora and his second wife.

How the Maute patriarch got out of Marawi remains a mystery.

Gapay surmised that the suspects may have escaped through the western side of Lake Lanao or travel by boat crossing the lake going to Butig, the Maute’s stronghold, to Malabang, and then to Parang, Maguindanao.

Cayamora told reporters Tuesday evening that he left Marawi on Sunday.

Prosecutors Aimee Mabale and Maria Christina Adao released the driver Aljon Salazar Ismael to his lawyer, Delfin Suarez Jr., at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday “due to lack of probable cause,” Gapay said.

The four were airlifted via C130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force.

The suspects were flown to Manila because they are considered high value and high risk individuals, according to Gapay.

While in Davao City, the suspects were detained at the Davao City Police Office.

Gapay did not disclose the detention facility in Manila for security reasons. (FRANCIS WAKEFIELD • ANTONIO COLINA)