Another day, and another deadline to clear Marawi City of Islamic State-affiliated terrorists has passed.
In an attempt to hit the self-imposed target of Sunday, October 15, 20 government troops were wounded yesterday and today (Sunday).
Joint Task Group Ranao deputy commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said: “Until now our troops are still assaulting the defensive positions of the Maute-IS and despite the fact that we have set today as a target day for finishing the armed conflict, our troops are still pushing hard, fighting hard to meet this target.
“We are trying our best… even our commanders are really very dedicated in our intent to finishing the day, accomplishing our mission.”
Troops have confined an estimated 40 militants to a few city blocks near Lake Lanao – but yesterday’s clashes suggest they will fight it out for every inch of territory still in their control.
The military has been encouraging the remaining terrorists to follow the lead of others who have already surrendered.
The military has said that the safety of the hostages remains their priority — while expressing fears that some have been compelled to bear arms against government forces.
Up to half a million civilians have been displaced by the fighting that erupted on May 23 following an unsuccessful raid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf commander who is also the Islamic State’s representative, or ‘emir’, in Southeast Asia.
However, recently President Duterte contradicted consistent military reports by claiming the chaos erupted following a drug bust.
It was not the first time the soldiers gave themselves a deadline in solving the conflicts in the war-torn city. Last month, officials made September 30 as their deadline in freeing the city, despite the fact that they vowed in June not to set many more deadlines.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla stressed last week that any deadlines mentioned were not official.
More than 160 government troops have been killed in the 20-week conflict while more than 1,700 troops have been wounded.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has assured the surviving terrorists that they will not be killed if they surrender.
He said: “If you will surrender, you will not be killed,” adding that they would be entitled to a fair trial and an opportunity to be rehabilitated back into society.
However, he warned: “If they keep on fighting, then we will finish them.”