MARAWI CITY – At least 9 army soldiers were killed and over 2 dozen others injured in fierce clashes with local ISIS militants in the besieged city of Marawi in southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.
Officials said the weekend fighting left 26 soldiers wounded. “Just yesterday, 9 soldiers got killed and 26 others were wounded during an intense whole day of fighting in downtown Marawi,” said Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.
Petinglay gave no other details, but at least 100 soldiers have so far died in the battle since May 23 when local militants occupied Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region. The extremists, whose members are mostly from various jihadist groups, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the troubled region.
The military insisted that over 400 militants were also killed in the violence, but officials gave little proof to back up the claims, although dozens of civilians were also slain in the battle that displaced some 200,000 people.
The Ranaw Ulama-Leaders Conference, in a manifesto, asked the military to allow residents to return to return home, particularly in areas that had been cleared by soldiers from extremists, and to re-open roads that civilians can and these were Rorogagus-Guimba-Maliwanag-Ramain in Lanao del Sur and Bito-Capitol Complex-Awar Street-Amai Pakpak Avenue-Marantao in Marawi.
It also asked the government and military to include the Ranaw Ulama-Leaders Conference as member of the sub-committees in the “Task Force Bangon Marawi” in an effort to participate in the rehabilitation of the city once the war is over. And recommended the resumption or operation of schools, government agencies and offices, and private establishments as soon as it is safe to do so.
The manifesto, which was forwarded to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during a meeting in Iligan City, also requested the immediate burial of the deceased and the prompt investigation of alleged abuses and human rights violations by security forces and ISIS militants.
Lorenzana said fighting is still continuing in Marawi and residents cannot return to their homes. “We want you to go back to your homes, but we cannot be sure when, as of the moment fighting is still raging in Marawi. Human lives are precious for us, that is why we want to make sure that by the time you return to your homes, you will already be safe,” he told the members of the Ranaw Ulama-Leaders Conference.
He also defended the imposition of martial law, saying with or without it, civilians will be forced to flee their homes and evacuate because of the violence and to preserve their lives. “We do not want this war to prolong and please understand that we did not ask for this either,” Lorenzana said.
Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, also echoed Lorenzana’s statement, saying: “We hope you will understand that we are fighting a different kind of enemy. Your soldiers die every day and are making sacrifices just to liberate Marawi from terror. Your soldiers are fighting not for Marawi alone, but for the entire country against these animals who wish to disrupt our normal way of life. We need you to understand the situation, we need you to have more patience,” he said.
Marawi is now in ruins because of military aerial bombings and barrage of artillery and has been likened to Mosul, a city in northern Iraq devastated by wars.
The meeting was also attended by Undersecretary Diosita Andot, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Abdullah Mamao, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Overseas Filipino Workers; Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto, of the Mindanao Development Authority; Undersecretary Cesar Yano, of the Department of National Defense.
And Congressman Mauyag Papandayan, Bangcola Adtha, Sultan sa Rogan, Secretary General of the Royal House; Dr. Ali Laguindab, representing the professional sector; Secretary Guiling Mamondiong of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; former Marawi Councilor Anwar Marabu; Alim Sarangani, representing the religious sector; and Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; and other non-governmental groups. (Mindanao Examiner)
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