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Troops recapture key bridge

By: Genalyn Kabiling

Military operations will remain “intense and focused” against the Maute terror group following the capture of a major bridge leading to the rebel position, a Palace official said Monday.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the government troops have expanded their “vantage position” after gaining control of Mapandi bridge.

“Government forces have taken control of what is considered as the gateway to Marawi City proper and that’s the Mapandi bridge. This is an important development as we continue to gain ground in the main battle area and expand our vantage position,” Guevarra said in a Palace press briefing.

“Military operations will remain intense and focused with the safety of the hostages in mind in the hope of bringing a quicker end to the rebellion and liberation of Marawi from the hands of the Maute terrorist groups,” he added.

With the government control of Mapandi bridge, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the military could now swiftly deploy troops and equipment given the direct access to the interior of the conflict-torn city.

Government troops are hunting down around 40 to 60 remaining terrorists holding 80 to 100 hostages, according to Padilla.

“We have now direct access to ground zero,” Padilla said during the same news conference in Malacañang. “The entry of our troops, equipment, logistics will be expedited all the more because we don’t have to go around,” he added.

Padilla said the main goal of the troops is to “rescue the hostages.”

He made clear though the military would not launch any attack on the mosque reportedly being used as haven of the militants in deference to the Muslim religious beliefs.