MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 4 Sept) – As government troops tightened the grip around ISIS-inspired gunmen in Marawi City, the terrorists are fighting back with all they have, including unexploded ordnance dropped from warplanes.
Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Chief Lt. General Carlito Galvez said fighting has been intense during the past two days along Quezon Avenue that runs along the Banggolo business district.
Galvez said the terrorists have been using everything they have from Molotov cocktails to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) fashioned from plastic water bottles.
He estimated around 45 ISIS-Maute gunmen are still fighting it out in a small pocket in the city.
“Only 300 structures remain to be cleared from 600 previously but our troops are finding more IEDs in the buildings,” Galvez said of the slow progress of the government troops.
Three soldiers died while 52 others were injured when they took back control of Bayabao Bridge in Banggolo last week.
Capt. Joane Petinglay, spokesperson of AFP Joint Task Force Marawi, said most of those injured were inflicted by IEDs.
A military officer who is familiar with the fighting said the terrorists got hold of explosives by salvaging unexploded ordnance and bombs dropped by the Philippine Air Force warplanes.
“They cut up the shells and bombs to get to the gunpowder and put them in small plastic bottles. They really know the stuff,” he said.
Galvez said the ISIS gunmen inside Marawi were able to get reinforcements despite the presence of gunboats watching Lake Lanao, the country’s second biggest lake.
He said reinforcements of one or two persons hide behind water lilies or water hyacinths to camouflage themselves and taking advantage of bad weather at night.
“We believe one or two gunmen were able to reinforce those in the main battle area using these tactics,” Galvez said.
Last week, government troops repulsed a small group of terrorists out to attack the nearby town of Marantao and spoil the opening of classes at the Mindanao State University.
Government troops also killed 10 gunmen trying to sneak into Marawi City in small boats. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)