MILITARY forces have made significant headway in clearing Marawi City of the remaining Maute Group remnants, but fighting in urban terrain with an enemy well versed in the use of homemade bombs, landmines and snipers has certainly posed significant challenges to the liberating military forces.
Adding to the difficulties is the presence of civilian hostages whom the bandits have no qualms in using as human shield if they get cornered by troops, the Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said over the weekend.
“[Things] are difficult because of the urban terrain [which is the worst form of battlefield] and we are doing this [clearing operations] very carefully because we have compounding issues which are presence of hostages, residents who refused to leave their homes, continued discovery of homemade bombs [which necessitated] the door-to-door clearing operations being done by our troops,” Padilla said.
These factors have made combat in Marawi City very complicated, he said.
These same factors are also present in most Middle East engagements with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaeda terrorists, and these contributed greatly to the length of time to neutralize them.
“In the case [of] the Battle of Mosul [in Iraq], it is still ongoing, since it started in October 2016…it not finished yet, although it has been going on for eight months. In Libya, [which conducted operations against] Daesh, the battle started May 12 and ended only last November 6, so it lasted over six months; in the Battle of Ramadi, where American and Iraqi militaries combined to fight the Daesh terrorists, the operation started April and ended only in November 2006 and during the Second Battle of Fallujah [where the Iraqi, American and British forces combined] against al-Qaeda terrorists, operations lasted November 7 up to December 23, 2004,” he added.
Fighting in Marawi City broke out when military forces tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the “emir” of Daesh in Southeast Asia, on May 23.
As of Monday, the death toll in the ongoing fighting is placed at 268 Maute Group bandits, 66 soldiers and police officers and 26 civilians.
‘Do not discriminate’
A SENATOR on Monday appealed to the public not to discriminate against evacuees from Marawi who seek temporary shelter in safer areas amid the ongoing conflict in their city.
“I appeal to the public not to stoke the flames of Islamophobia. Discrimination breeds hate. It builds walls. It sustains unjust wars,” Sen. Anna Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement coinciding with the celebration of Eid’l Fitr.
Hontiveros made the appeal following reports that a number of Maranaoans have complained of discrimination noting that some house and apartment owners in nearby provinces have refused to rent out their properties to them.
She said she understood the public’s security concerns, but warned them not to mistake discrimination for vigilance.
“This is the time for unity and solidarity. Amid these challenging times, we should not give in to our fears and prejudice. Let us not play into the script of the Maute bandits, who want to sow fear and hate between Christians and Muslims,” she said.
The neophyte senator also urged government agencies to look into alleged cases of discriminatory practices against people displaced by the Marawi crisis, particularly Filipino-Muslims.
“The government must ensure that the well-being of all internally displaced persons are taken care of, including their protection from all forms of discrimination. They have suffered so much. Let us not add to their pain,” she added.