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Militants want out of Marawi


MARAWI CITY – Dawla Islamiyah militants battling government forces have indicated their desire to release the remaining 100 hostages in return for their safe retreat to the jungles.

The unnamed source, who is in contact with some of the militants, said the armed group wants to pull out of the war-torn city.

Five weeks of intense battles have shrunk their forces and depleted their war materiel, prompting militants to open a channel for negotiations.

Through emissaries, the militants, now numbering 150, are demanding for safe exit and the withdrawal of security troops before they release their captives, including Catholic priest Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub.

Suganob was taken hostage along with some parishioners when the militants attacked and burned the Dansalan College complex early in the crisis.

More than 300 have died and 320,000 displaced since the militants occupied a large part of the Islamic city last May 23.

Government forces used planes, helicopters, artilleries, and armored vehicles to push back the heavily-armed militants who remain holed up in four barangays.

With thousands of troops guarding all possible exit points, the militants hope to use their hostages to get out of Marawi.

The source also cited three other factors that prompted militants to consider retreating. These are the intercession of moderate elder ulama (religious leaders), the sudden abandonment of Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State-anointed “emir” for Southeast Asia, and the death of an elder brother of siblings Omar and Abdullah Maute last June 9 that also left 13 Marines dead.

“The slain Maute (identified by other sources as Mohammad Khayyam) was not Dawla member but he took up arm and fought the Marine contingents because he was profusely desperate about the earlier arrest of their mother and father. He was blaming Omar and Abdullah before committing the suicidal fight,” the informant disclosed.

The revelation gives credence to military claims that Dawla leaders were crumbling over “internal issues” as exemplified by cases of hardcore militants’ gunning down followers trying to flee.

Those who attempted to escape, he said, were among more than 50 young residents forcibly taken and armed by the militants to join them in the siege.