Philippines: Heavy fighting with IS, hostage rescued

 16 Oct 2017 - 10:20

Philippines: Heavy fighting with IS, hostage rescued

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines: A dozen soldiers were wounded and a hostage rescued Sunday following heavy fighting between state troops and IS-linked militants over the last two days in Marawi city.

According to the Task Group Ranao deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner, at least 20 soldiers including a battalion commander were wounded but rescued a 16-year-old female hostage.

"The officer was hit in the lower extremities of his body. The hostage is okay and was able to provide us with critical information," MindaNews quoted Brawner as saying.

Government forces attempted to meet the October 15, deadline to end clashes with Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, whose leader Isnilon Hapilon, has been cornered in a terrorist-held area near Lake, Lanao.

But heavy fighting ensued when troops assaulted an enemy position to free the remaining hostages. The latest clashes show the militants will fight it out until the end.

Brawner admitted that the lives of hostages are at stake as women and children are being used as human shields, and are being forced to fight along with Mautes and also used as pawns to determine the location of troops.

Citing the information provided by the rescued hostage, Brawner said the terrorists are hiding inside tunnels, or dugouts, and canals, and they make their hostages run and will wait for fires from the troops that endagers their lives as they may be caught in the cross fire.

"We have missed previous deadlines because the safety of the hostages remains our priority... we are very much concern securing the lives of the hostages," he said.

As of Sunday, authorities said 821 IS-linked militants, 162 soldiers and 47 civilians have died while more than 1,700 soldiers were wounded since the fighting broke out on May 23.

The Marawi Crisis Management Committee earlier said about 400,000 residents of Marawi City and nearby towns were displaced by the more than four months war.

Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Chief Lt. Carlito Galvez said their troops are really fighting hard the remaining Abu Sayyaf and Maute terrorists. 

Galvez said there were 31 hostages — 12 children, 16 women and three men — and "31 or 33" Maute dependents whose presence in the battle area complicates the military operations.

He confirmed that Hapilon and Maute Group’s Omar Maute, are inside the area commanding their followers.

Early last week, President Rodrigo Duterte said the battle was almost over after military commanders set at least nine deadlines in the past to end the fighting but the tenacity of the terrorists has thwarted all of their attempts.

Troops are still finding it difficult to dislodge the IS-linked gunmen hiding in buildings and basements.