MANILA, Aug. 7 — As clearing operations in war-torn Marawi City is set to wind down soon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has suspended the deployment of another battalion as reinforcement to units still engaged in fighting Maute Group terrorists.
For reasons of operational security, AFP public information office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo declined to say where the battalion is based, but added the officers and enlisted personnel of the unit were “disappointed” with AFP chief-of-staff Eduardo Año’s decision to cancel deployment of more troops.
“The Chief-of-Staff desisted on bringing this Army battalion due to the (recent positive developments) ongoing there,” Arevalo said.
A battalion’s strength is estimated to be around 300 to 500 officers and enlisted personnel.
Arevalo said the battalion’s deployment was finalized some two weeks ago and that officers and personnel have packed their equipment, waiting for orders to go Marawi City, only to be informed that Año had cancelled the order as there are sufficient troops in the area.
Earlier, ranking military and defense officials said the remaining Maute Group fighters, estimated at around 40 to 60, are now pocketed in two barangays measuring less than a square kilometers.
Clearing operations is slowed down by the Maute Group’s penchance of using improvised explosive devices, snipers and booby traps.
As of 7 p.m. of Aug. 6, the number of Maute Group terrorists killed has reached the 528 mark while number of government troops slain in the ongoing operations is now at 122 along with 45 civilians executed. Recovered firearms are placed at 603 and rescued civilians at 1,728.
Fighting in Marawi City started on May 23 when government troops botched an attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS “emir” in Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon.