A key bridge that leads to the main position of the Islamic-state inspired militants in Marawi City was captured and secured by the Government forces but will not use it to launch a major attacks, rather squeeze efforts to rescue and save civilian hostages, the military stated last Monday, July 31.
Government troops took control of the Mapindi Bridge last week, which direct to Marawi’s interior commercial district, where 40-60 remaining militants from the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Groups (ASG) are assumed to be keeping 80 – 100 civilians as hostages, mostly held in a large mosque, as informed by Brigade General Restituto Padilla Jr, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Padilla also said at a news conference in Malacañang Palace that the military now finally have an access to ground zero, pertaining to the bridge over the Agus River of Marawi.
The bridge can be utilized to transport men and military supplies to the battle zone, but as for Padilla, the military’s main objective is to “rescue the hostages.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has commanded troops to safeguard the hostages and not launch a big attack that can put the captives into danger even if that lengthens the terrorist siege in the city, which was already extended for more than two months now.
A sum of 650 casualties has been recorded since the fighting started – 491 terrorists, 114 from the government troops, and 45 civilians. Terrorists attacked Marawi on May 23 to create a territorial dominion of the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in the Southeast Asia.
Delfin Lorenzana, Defense Secretary, expressed fears that the hostages used as human shield by the terrorists, might be forced to function as suicide bombers.
Lorenzana said that it is one of the soldier’s fears as well, that the terrorist may set free of the hostages but will force them to carry bombs.
Padilla said that the terrorists’ places in buildings in two villages within a square-kilometer enclosed area of the city center.
There are around 500 buildings in the area that are still to be cleared of booby traps and explosives by the military troops, further delaying the campaign to recover the city from the terrorists, Padilla added.
The militants have left various improvised explosive devices and unexploded weapons, which slows down the operation. He said.
Padilla stated that the troops are risking their own lives in clearing the buildings and any other structures but the job have to accomplish to prevent deaths and loss of limb from explosions after the crisis when the residents finally return to Marawi City. Marawi residents are still not allowed to go back to their houses in the city, only those residents from villages outside the city have been permitted to go back to their homes.
“Some Marawi resident tried to return to the city, but we had an incident where a returning resident was hit by a stray bullet. Good thing the resident did not die,” Padilla said.
The return of the Mindanao State University students and faculty has also been delayed because the school remains threatened to stray bullets.