Trapped civilians walk to safety; military to fast-track operations vs terrorists

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 03 June) —  At least 182 trapped civilians walked to safety Saturday as the military vowed to end the crisis in Marawi City soon.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said in a press statement Saturday that soldiers, along with workers from local government units and non-government organizations, rescued a total of 182 civilians in two key areas at the conflict zone in the besieged city but a civilian who was about to be rescued “was shot dead by enemy snipers as he was about to approach government troops.”

Out of the 182 cited by the military, 172 of them were led to safety by Norodin Lucman, who sheltered 71 Christian workers since the clashes between government forces and terrorists started on May 23.  Lucman led the daring move to cross the bridge to safety early Saturday morning.

Civilians walk to safety early Saturday morning, 03 June 2017 from the conflict zone to the safe zone in Marawi City. The daring move was led by Norodin Lucman. Photo courtesy of NAGUIB SINARIMBO

Civilians trapped in buildings and homes who saw Lucman’s group moving to cross the bridge joined them, making the total number of Muslims and Christians that Lucman led to the safe zone at 172, according to Naguib Sinarimbo, a volunteer at the Provincial Crisis Management Commitee.

Galvez said the troops are committed to “exert every effort to rescue all those trapped in Marawi as we clear the city street by street, building by building, room by room and inch by inch in order to neutralize all armed threats so that peace will reign in Marawi again.”

“We hope for the early resolution of this conflict the soonest time possible so that our people in Marawi can go back to their homes and live a normal life again” Galvez added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had earlier said it would be over by Friday but on Saturday, Lorenzana, wearing a military uniform, told a press conference in Marawi, that there are still 200 to 250 enemy forces in the city.

The clashes started May 23 when security forces raided an area believed to be harboring Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group but were met with armed resistance.

As of Saturday, the military reported 120 terrorists have been killed, including at least eight foreigners. Nine members of the Maute Group reportedly surrendered.

The government forces, on the other hand, lost 38 troopers.

Galvez said the total number of rescued civilians is now 1,236 while at least 20 civilians were executed by the Maute group.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of Task Force Marawi, condemned the Maute Group for killing the trapped civilian while in the process of being rescued.

“This shows the blatant disregard of this group for the life of innocent people, the people of Marawi. They attacked the City and put the lives of everyone in Marawi in grave danger including women, children and the elderly. It is the people of Marawi who suffered because of their evil un-Islamic deeds,” he said.

“We call on our people to stand and unite against terrorism. The fight against terrorism is not the sole duty of the security sector but the responsibility of everyone,” he added. (Darwin Wally T. Wee / MindaNews)