MANILA, July 31 — The number of Maute Group members left in Marawi City is down to about 30 to 40 fighters as government forces continue to track them down relentlessly, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.
“They (Maute Group terrorists) are just a handful; I think they are down to only 30 to 40 fighters but don’t discount them as these are good fighters and we are still taking casualties. In fact, we had one killed and nine wounded some three days ago and yesterday (Sunday)… Clearing operations are still ongoing,” he added in Filipino.
Lorenzana stressed that ongoing operations, the so-called house-to-house and room-to-room fighting, is very difficult and dangerous.
Troops are doing these tasks very carefully in order to avoid the Maute Group’s practice of using hostages as shields to avoid causing needless casualties to civilians.
As of this posting, the number of Maute Group terrorists killed was placed at 491, with 114 government troops slain and 45 civilians executed.
Also recovered were 584 high-powered weapons while some 1,723 civilians were rescued.
Fighting in the area has been raging since May 23, when government forces made a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS “emir” Isnilon Hapilon.