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Troops inch closer to Maute terrorists

By AARON RECUENCO

Military forces are said to be inching closer towards the remaining strongholds of the Maute Group in Marawi City in a final push to drive away the ISIS-inspired gunmen in the once-bustling Islamic City in Mindanao.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, information officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said that the Maute forces continue to diminish based on the assessment and information they have been receiving from ground commanders.

“We continue our assault to the enemy remaining positions that gradually reduced daily. Their defenses continue to wane as their strength does,” said Arevalo.

What continues to slow down the military operation, according to Arevalo, is the presence of civilian hostages which are allegedly being used as human shields of the remaining Maute Group forces.

The official said they are also receiving report that the hostages are being forced to fight with the soldiers by arming them with guns to make it appear they are their fighters.

“We are still very mindful of the presence of civilian hostages,” said Arevalo.

A total of 45 civilians were reported dead since the start of the gun battle on May 23. Almost all of the victims were allegedly executed by the Maute Group while the rest are believed to have been caught in the crossfire.

But Arevalo said they expect more civilian casualties once they enter the main battle zone.

It was recalled that soldiers have been recovering cadavers of civilians every time they would retake major battle zones in Marawi City.

Aside from civilian casualties, a total of 655 Maute members were killed, according to the military data.

On the part of the government, 145 soldiers and policemen died while more than 1,000 more were wounded.

The military could not say when the fighting would end. The Martial Law rule, which was implemented on May 23, remains in effect in the entire Mindanao.

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