CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 23 October) — After five months of intense fighting, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday declared the termination of the hostilities between the government troops and the ISIS-linked Maute terror group in Marawi City.
Lorenzana made the announcement during the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting, a regional security forum among member-nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga on Monday, Day 154 of the crisis that began on May 23 and six days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced in Marawi City that it had been “liberated from the terrorist influence.”
“We now announce the termination of combat operations in Marawi City,” Lorenzana said, exactly a week after siege leaders Isnilon Hapilon of the Abu Sayyaf, the alleged “Emir” of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute of the Maute Group were killed.
“The Philippine security forces, aided by its government and the massive support of the Filipino people have nipped the budding terrorism infrastructure and defeated terrorism in the Philippines,” he said.
Lorenzana said by crushing the attempt of the Maute-ISIS terrorists to take over Marawi, the most serious attempt ever by the extremists, the Philippines prevented its spread in Asia.
He acknowledged that these “tactical and strategic gains will not annihilate the ideology completely” but declared that this achievement “is clear manifestation of how our regional cooperation can lead to a decisive advance against the proliferation of terrorism in this part of the world.”
We hope that this operational achievement in Marawi, Philippines will be the catalyst that shall bring to the fore future cooperations and partnerships not only against terrorism but also those that shall defeat other regional and global security threats.
The price of ending the fighting and taking back Marawi City was costly.
About 165 soldiers including ten officers and 155 enlisted personnel died in the almost daily street-fighting in Marawi City.
Forty more enemies were reported killed inside the last building that offered resistance on Sunday.
Another 1,754 soldiers — the size of an Army regiment — 98 officers including an Army colonel who was leading his battalion and 1,695 enlisted personnel were wounded.
At least 47 civilians were reported killed in the crossfire and the entire population of Marawi City was forced to live in crowded evacuation centers and homes of family members in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and as far away as Visayas and Luzon .
Government forces attempted to arrest Isnilon Hapilon on May 23, triggering an armed confrontation with his supporters in Barangay Basak Malutlut. Immediately thereafter, men in black waving black ISIS flags took hold of vital areas in the city, set on fire several structures and held several persons hostage, including Fr. Teresito Soganub, Vicar General of the Prelature of Marawi. Soganub and a teacher were rescued on September 16.
At least 90% of Marawi’s 201,000 population fled to evacuation centers or sought refuge in relatives’ houses.
Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed on October 16, Hapilon’s death confirmed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation based on DNA matching results.
No confirmation has been made on Omar Maute’s DNA matching results. Another brother, Abdullah was reportedly kill in the fighting several week ago but the military has not been able to present any proof of his death.
As of early Sunday afternoon, Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander of Task Force Ranao told reporters in Marawi that a total of 919 enemies had been killed while 165 government forces were killed in action.
In the fighting Sunday, soldiers reportedly found the bodies of about 40 Maute gunmen inside a building where they made their last stand in Marawi City.
A military officer who asked not to be identified said they believed that some of the terrorists committed suicide rather than surrender to the troops.
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur crisis committee said they were elated by Lorenzana’s announcement.
Adiong said the rehabilitation plans submmiTted to Task Force Bangon Marawi should be implemented right away.
“Let us now channel our resolve from fighting the terrorists to working for the healing our shattered community. The social healing should start now,” Adiong said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)