MANILA, June 15 – Fighting between government forces and Islamic Maute terrorists in Marawi City in southern Philippines entered its 24th day with the military steadily gaining the upper hand, killing 207 militants and capturing their matriarch tagged as the financier of the militant group.
In an interview, Brig. Gen. Resty Padilla Jr., spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), told TMP today that 58 soldiers, and 26 civilians caught in the crossfire were killed since fighting erupted last May 23.
He said that 1,629 civilians, including five policemen trapped in the fighting were rescued by soldiers the past three weeks.
In today’s gun battle, an Australian journalist identified as Adam Harvey of the Australian Broadcasting Company was hit by shrapnel that pierced his neck just after he took off his armoured vest and helmet upon reaching the capitol building.
Harvey was immediately rushed the city hospital. Harvey was the first journalist who was wounded while covering the fighting in Marawi City.
Padilla also said that government troops captured 172 high-powered weapons left behind by slain terrorists since fighting erupted more than three weeks ago.
Most of the 58 soldiers killed were hit by Maute snipers, perched in tall buildings of the city where the terrorists are holed up, together with trapped civilians whom they are using as human shields.
Padilla said the terrorists using civilians as human shields have prevented government forces from firing their gun for fear the civilians would be killed.
On Wednesday (June 14), five civilians and five policemen dashed to freedom when they saw an opportunity to escape. They sustained bruises in various parts of their bodies during their daring escape.
Last week, the military arrested Ominta Romato Maute, alias Farhana, mother of terrorist leaders Omar and Abdulla Maute, who is allegedly the financier of the Maute terrorist group.
Also arrested were Fajad Salic, former mayor of Marawi, and nine others.
They were intercepted at a checkpoint manned by Philippine Army troopers. Rebellion charges have been filed against them
The charges were filed after prosecutors found probable cause against the accused for conniving with the Maute group by actively engaging “in an armed rebellion against the government,” according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
The heavy fighting erupted when heavily armed Maute terrorists seized Marawi City last May 23.
Warplanes and helicopter gunships of the Philippine Air Forces (PAF) immediately went into action conducting surgical bombings and strafing Maute terrorists, who occupied many buildings in the city proper.
Army and Marine troopers also launched ground assaults against the terrorists that triggered fierce fighting still underway.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana tagged Farhana as the Maute group’s adviser and financier, given her “vast financial resources drawn locally and abroad.”
Farhana is the first wife of Cayamora Maute, who was arrested at a checkpoint in Davao City on June 6. She was arrested in Masiu, Lanao del Sur, along with two wounded Maute group members, last Friday.
Aside from Salic and Maute, also charged in court were Sumaya Bangkit Masakal, Radiea Tugosa Asire, Mariam Ibnu Abubakar, Zafeerah Rosales Musa, Nehreen Macaraya Abdul, Nora Moctar Limgas, Mardiyya Haji Ali, Sumayya Lawi Ali and Noronisa Haji Camal.
All 11 accused are on the list of over 300 individuals identified as members of the Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf, and their sympathizers earlier ordered arrested by the government for the crime of rebellion.
Authorities confiscated from Farhana one M14 rifle, seven M14 magazine assemblies, 136 M14 live ammunition, one scope, two rifle grenades, two improvised rocket propelled grenades and two smoke grenades.
Government troops seized from Salic four units of M203 grenade, one M16 rifle loaded with 29 pieces of live ammunition, and three long magazines each loaded with 30 pieces of 5.56 live ammunition.
When Maute terrorists lay siege on Marawi City, they waved the black Islamic State flag, and at the same time killed civilians and took hundreds of hostages.
This prompted President Rodrigo R. Duterte to declare martial law on the whole of Mindanao to prevent the terrorists from spreading their deadly reach to the region Mindanao.
Duterte was visiting Russia at the time when Maute terrorists seized Marawi.
He said that the Maute group wanted to establish an ISIS province in southern Philippines. The military has uncovered a plot that Maute terrorist group was planning to attack the nearby Iligan City after Marawi.