MANILA— The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday stressed that government forces are in complete control of Marawi City amid reports coming mostly from social media that half of the city is under the control of the Maute Group.
“We have complete control of the city, contrary to what is coming out in social media and other information, perhaps some fake news,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said during a Palace briefing.
“It is not true that half of the city is controlled by the rebels. Totally untrue. The Armed Forces and the police are in complete control of the city except for certain areas of the city where they continue to hold. These are the subject of clearing operations that are continuously being conducted,” he said.
However, the AFP official admitted that they do not have the exact number of militants still remaining in the area due to a “very fluid situation.”
He said that initial information showed the presence of around 40 to 50 armed elements but the activities of the militants on the ground, which included the freeing of over 100 prisoners in a jail which they consequently burned, could raise the number of terrorists in the area.
“Quite a number of those prisoners may have joined ranks with them because some of them were imprisoned for joining the group. We are also aware that there are sympathetic elements that may have been helping and may have also joined their ranks,” Padilla said.
In the meantime, the AFP assured that government security forces are doing everything to end the Marawi City situation at the soonest possible time.
“Although we do not have a timeline, we’re seeking to end this as soon as possible. Our ground commanders have assured that the end is almost there” Padilla said.
The trouble in Marawi erupted following violent clashes between government forces and members of the Maute terrorist group after security forces initiated operations to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a wanted Abu Sayyaf terrorist now believed to be a leader of the Maute group.
At the course of the fighting, the ISIS-inspired terror group took over a hospital in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, established several checkpoints within the city, burned down certain government and private facilities and inflicted casualties on the part of government forces.
Its members were even shown flying the ISIS flag in several areas of the city.
This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law for a period of 60 days on the grounds of invasion and rebellion.
The declaration of martial law was done through Proclamation No. 216, which Duterte signed on May 23 while he was still in Russia.
According to official figures released by Malacañang, fighting in Marawi City have led to the killing of 61 Maute terrorists.
Meanwhile, the government have lost 18 of its forces — 15 military and 3 police personnel.
The number of civilian casualties was pegged at 19, all in the hands of the local terrorists.