MARAWI CITY — The military said it was expecting the battle here to be more bloody as Maute gunmen and their allies were now moving inside a limited area.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said that with the gunmen now confined to only a few square kilometers to move around, the situation had become more tense—at least for the enemies.
“Their strongholds are one by one falling to us,” Galvez said.
But he said as the area being held by the Maute gunmen diminished, their defense positions had become compact as well.
“So we expected more bloody operations in the sense that it’s now a very intense and close firefight,” Galvez said.
Earlier, military ground commanders had said the Maute gunmen and their allies now appeared to be suicidal and did not mind if they got killed while attacking military positions.
Galvez agreed, saying that on July 21, Maute terrorists went closer to the position of government troops to lob a grenade.
At least 9 soldiers were killed in that attack.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, the spokesperson of Task Force Marawi, said the Maute group had also rigged some houses with improvised explosive devices to exact more casualties on the government—which so far has incurred 114 deaths.
Fortunately, Petinglay said Army bomb experts had detonated those planted in areas recently seized from the Maute control.
Petinglay, meanwhile, said the military was still validating reports about the death of another militant leader during an airstrike conducted last week.
“We are checking and trying to verify if it’s Abdullah Maute,” she said.
Abdullah was the more prominent Maute leader remaining inside the main battle area after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon managed to sneak out in June.
Another Maute, Omar, was supposedly killed in a firefight with soldiers, also in June.
Galvez said the number of militants inside the main battle area had drastically dropped to just between 60-70. —Jeoffrey Maitem
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