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Cops, soldiers pray in recaptured mosque

By FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD

Twenty-three Maranao soldiers and policemen congregated to pray Salat al-Jamaat at a masjid in Marawi City, the first time since the siege erupted last May 23.

And while doing this, their non-muslim comrades stood outside to protect them from potential attacks.

The congregational prayer was held at Masjid Saad Huzam Almusairi in Lilod, Marawi City located inside the main battle area at 12 noon Friday.

Joining the prayer were 20 Muslim personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and three personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“This was the first time that a congregational prayer with security forces was made since Daesh-inspired fighters staged a rampage and occupied masjids as strategic structures in the battle-stricken city since May 23, this year,” said Police Senior Superintendent Rolando Anduyan the Commander of the Joint Task Group PNP.

Since the fighting started in May, police units were sent to the main battle area to fight alongside with the soldiers.

“It is appropriate that we allow our muslim brothers time to pray and ask for good guidance from Allah especially that the situation now is critical.”

The new City Chief of Police Superintendent Ebra M Moxsir, who is also an Imam, led the prayer.

Earlier this week, Muslim soldiers and policemen helped clean and made minor repairs to the Saad Almusairi Masjid last August 19 before it was used for the first time in months yesterday.

“We encourage our men to attend to religious activities even if we are at war,” said Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez, Jr., the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“As much as time allows it, we permit our troops to practice their religious beliefs since it is also where most if them get their strength and motivation.”

Meanwhile, policemen were able to recover a “baital”, Maranao term for Masjid donation box, which originally belongs to the Islamic Center.

The said donation box was found and retrieved by troops already empty at Norhaya Village, Marawi City. It is believed that terrorist forcibly brought the box and took its contents.

Meantime, the military Sunday said that 603 Daesh-inspired Maute Group terrorists have already been killed as fighting in Marawi City entered its 97th day.

According to the AFP Joint Task Force Marawi, a total of 661 firearms has also been recovered while 33 more buildings have been cleared of Maute fighters.

The military said on the side of government troops, a total of 130 soldiers/policemen has so far been killed as a result of the fighting.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that based on the recent assessment by AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., their best estimate is that the enemy remains at about 50 to 60.

The remaining hostages, meanwhile, are believed to be still at 30 or more.

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