THE Philippine military over the weekend admitted that it has failed to meet its self imposed Friday deadline to flush out the criminal and terrorist elements besieging Marawi City. Nevertheless, it vowed to continue its operation to completely retake all terrorists occupied parts of the city.
In a statement, armed forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the operation has slowed because the combined forces of the Maute group and the kidnap for ransom gang Abu Sayyaf have taken civilians as hostages. They are using women and children as human shields in fortified commercial buildings in the city center.
Padilla, however, said the military will definitely clear the city of the estimated 100 militants holed in there.
“We’re working and doing our best to accomplish this mission.”
The Philippine Air Force is using OV-10 Broncos, a turboprop light attack and observation aircraft, and helicopters to bomb and deliver rockets on fortified militant positions while foot soldiers and police units backed by armored vehicles engaged the militants in house to house fighting.
Militant snipers are spread all over the city making it difficult for government forces to move without adequate cover and fire power.
The Maute group and Abu Sayyaf earlier pledged allegiance to the international Sunni Muslim fundamentalist terrorist group Islamic State, which currently wrecks havoc in Syria and Iraq by destroying sacred Christian sites and killing Shiite Muslims.
The local terrorists and criminal groups started besieging Marawi City last week following a botched attempt by the authorities to serve an arrest warrant against their leader Isnilon Hapilon.
Meanwhile, the army commander leading the offensive against the terrorists in Marawi City, Brig. Gen. Nixon Fortes, was relieved of his command on Friday and replaced by his deputy Col. Generoso Ponio. No official reason was given.
Media sources, however, said Fortes was caught by surprise when the militants tried to take over Marawi, which is home to some 200,000 people.
As this developed, sources told Beyond Deadlines that the foiled attempt to serve an arrest warrant on Hapilon was a blessing in disguise as it accidentally foiled terrorist plan to completely take over the city by surprise in the future and declare it as capital of the IS caliphate in Southeast Asia.
The sources noted that there were numerous citing of foreigners, mostly middle eastern looking, in Marawi before the siege took place. They added that provincial and city officials failed to react even after intelligence reports have already raised concern over the unusual sightings.