MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 4 Oct) – The Philippine military rescued at least 17 hostages, including five female teachers of Dansalan College, after an intense firefight in Marawi City dawn on Wednesday.
The rescue came after soldiers made a night attack on a row of houses in Barangay Lumbac Marinaut.
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, however, did not confirm the rescue. He told reporters “operations are still ongoing to rescue the hostages held by the remaining gunmen.”
In Manila, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed to Rappler that troops were able to rescue nine males and eight females with ages ranging from 18 to 75. Lorenzana did not give any more details because military operations are still ongoing to rescue the remaining 23 hostages.
Lanao del Sur provincial crisis management spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong also confirmed the successful rescue by elements of the Joint Task Force at 2 a.m. Wednesday.
“The fighting distracted the ISIS-Maute gunmen allowing the hostages to break free,” Adiong said.
Sources said the hostages scampered to the soldiers’ side after the ISIS-Maute gunmen guarding got distracted by the night attack.
Euphoria swept the community of the protestant United Church of Christ of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro City after they learned all six teachers of the Dansalan College were among those rescued.
“You cannot imagine our happiness. Our prayers for their safety have been answered,” a member of the congregation said.
Of the seven teachers taken hostage last May 23, only John Ray Bugacia is still in the hands of the gunmen.
The teachers who are already with the military undergoing tactical debriefing in Marawi City were identified as Erlinda Saguin, Noelita Cusap, Robie Brizal, Archilly Abao, and Dyna Bernaldez.
Two other teachers from the Mindanao State University and St. Mary’s College in Marawi City were also able to escape, sources said.
Adiong said the military is conducting tactical interrogation on the hostages who were able to escape to determine if they are not ISIS-Maute gunmen.
With the rescue of 17 hostages, the ISIS-Maute gunmen are believed to still holding around 40 hostages. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)