ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 05 June) — There are still around 18 foreign terrorists fighting alongside the Maute group in Marawi City, according to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
“We have received reports that there are more or less 18 foreign terrorists fighting here,” said Galvez, who is overseeing the military operations to flush-out Maute members in Marawi.
“We have indications that some of the international terrorists are still there (conflict zone),” he told a press conference Monday in Marawi City.
Defense secretary Delfin Lorenza had earlier confirmed that eight foreign terrorists, allegedly members of the ISIS, have been killed since the armed conflict started on May 23.
Galvez said among those foreign terrorists killed are from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.
He said the ISIS itself confirmed the reports of the slain foreign terrorists on their website.
Galvez noted that they are still checking on the identities of the remaining foreign terrorists in the area.
“The Maute wanted to be recognized. They want to declare Marawi as their territory,” he said.
The fighting in Marawi entered Day 14 on Monday. It started May 23 when security forces launched an operation against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute leaders. The fighting escalated when Maute members went on a rampage, held hostages, and seized several establishments paralyzing the entire city.
As of Monday, around 120 Maute members have killed, while the government lost 38 soldiers and policemen.
At least 20 civilians have also been confirmed killed in the ongoing firefight. The bulk of them were reportedly executed by the Maute.
The crisis has triggered a humanitarian crisis as displaced people sought refuge in nearby Iligan City, and neighboring towns in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.
Galvez said the proliferation of loose firearms in Marawi aggravates the situation.
He said Maute members are using guns and ammunitions left behind by the residents.
“This preparation was not done overnight,” he said, noting that the attack in Marawi is well planned.
He noted the difficulty in clearing the battleground in an urban setting. “There are underground tunnels and basements,” Galvez said.
“Our mission is to clear Marawi as soon as possible,” he said.
“We are aware that there are more than 221,000 people suffering in the evacuation sites,” he added. (Darwin Wally T. Wee / MindaNews)