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Military allows journos to go near Marawi battle area

MARAWI CITY – The Philippine military on Wednesday allowed journalists covering the war in Marawi to cross a bridge previously under the control of local ISIS militants and see the devastation that ruined the historic Islamic city.

Tanks and armoured carriers rolled onto the Mapandi Bridge as journalists from various news outlets followed as security officials assured their safety following days of clearing operations to ensure that no bombs or improvised devices had been left behind by militants.

Although the area had been free from ISIS fighters, gunshots can still be heard from afar where government soldiers are still battling dozens of militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The face of a destroyed city – blasted buildings covered in bullet holes – and debris scattered all around was a sight that resembled the war-ravaged city of Mosul in Iraq where ISIS battled government forces.

The fighting in Marawi has entered its 4th month and military chief Eduardo Año said this would be over soon, but the agony of tens of thousands of Muslim residents displaced by the deadly violence will stay longer in their hearts as they suffer in cramped and filthy evacuation camps not far away from here.

Bringing journalists at the doorstep of the battle area also served as big boost to military’s effort in showing the public the difficult task of retaking part of the besieged city from ISIS. More than 100 soldiers had so far died in the battle with the military claiming to have killed over 600 militants since May 23 when ISIS occupied Marawi in an effort to put up an Islamic State province in the provincial capital. Dozens of civilians were also slain in the clashes.

On Tuesday, the military deployed 102 female soldiers and policewomen to help local efforts in addressing the needs of families displaced by the crisis. The contingent is composed of 40 policewomen and 62 army members – mostly Muslims – who will be assigned to different evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte and in Iligan City.

They all underwent special training on gender and development and studied modules on cultural sensitivity prior to their deployment and will also assist in the many aspects of recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Marawi. They were trained in Psycho Social Intervention and Peace Education to assist in the implementation of programs to help the evacuees. (Mindanao Examiner)

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