MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 15 Oct) — Government troops suffered more casualties as they attempted to meet the October 15 target to defeat the ISIS-inspired Maute group now allegedly cornered in a two-hectare area near Lake Lanao,
Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Force Ranao said 20 soldiers including an Army battalion commander were wounded Saturday as they tried to meet the Oct. 15 objective.
But Brawner said the troops were able to rescue a 16-year-old female hostage last Saturday.
He did not reveal the identities of the military officer and the hostage survivor.
“The officer was hit in the lower extremities of his body. The hostage is okay and was able to provide us with critical information,” Brawner said.
Brawner said troops are still finding it difficult to dislodge the ISIS-Maute gunmen hidden in buildings and basements.
“Until now we are still assaulting the defensive positions of the Maute-ISIS despite the fact we have set today, this day, as target date for finishing the armed conflict,” Brawner said.
Armed Forces Western Command Chief Lt. Carlito Galvez had earlier set October 15 as their target to rid the city of f ISIS-Maute terrorists.
President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials have set at least nine deadlines in the past but the tenacity of the terrorists has thwarted all of their attempts to put an end to the fighting.
“Our troops are really fighting hard,” Brawner said.
He said ISIS-Maute gunmen who are fighting at the edge of Lake Lanao, are using women and children hostages as combatants in their last defensive stand.
Brawner said the hostages are also used as baits to draw the fire from government troops.
Brawner said this information came from the young female hostage when she was interviewed by her rescuers.
He said there are an estimated 100 non-combatants with the ISIS-Maute terrorists — about 40 hostages and 60 family members of the terrorists. Last Monday, Galvez said there were 31 hostages — 12 children, 16 women and three men — and “31 or 33” Maute dependents.
Brawner said the presence of so many non-combatants complicates the operations against the terrorists.
He said they also believe that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Grou’s Omar Maute, are still inside the area the terrorists are holding here. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)