MANILA – At least 2,000 residents of Marawi City in the central Mindanao province of Lanao del Sur have asked the government to rescue them as the military yesterday launched airstrikes again on the terrorist-held Muslim-majority city to flush out the attackers who are linked to the Islamic State (IS).
Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the province government, said yesterday that the trapped residents sent text messages to other family members, relatives and officials of the local government saying that their homes have been destroyed and have begged to be rescued.
After days of fighting between government troops and terrorists that started on Tuesday last week when members of the Maute Group attacked Marawi, the military has counted 97 casualties so far. The dead included 19 civilians.
The Maute Group members raided Marawi City late Tuesday afternoon last week. They raided the city’s hospital; set afire to a school, church and the city jail; and took a priest and several church workers as hostages.
The siege of Marawi had prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to put the entire Mindanao under Martial Law for 60 days starting last Tuesday and forced him to cut short a four-day visit in Russia to return to the Philippines to address the crisis.
Duterte said in a speech in Jolo, Sulu where he met with soldiers last Saturday that he will say when Martial Law can be lifted despite the 60-day limit prescribed by the Philippine Constitution.
“Until the police and the Armed Forces say the Philippines is safe, this Martial Law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court justices, the congressmen, they are not here,” the President told soldiers here on Saturday.
The Philippines Constitution provides that Congress, in a joint session of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, will ratify or revoke the Martial Law declaration and that any extension of military rule on the Philippines or on any part of the country needs congressional approval.
The Supreme Court, on the other hand, can review the declaration should there be any petition questioning the imposition of Martial Law.
In Marawi, majority of the 200,000 residents have fled the city to avoid getting caught in crossfire as clashes raged between soldiers and the terrorists, but at least 2,000 are still trapped there.
Adiong said the trapped residents are in the battle zones, adding that they told them “to go the safest area, wait in their house, lock their doors and not let just anybody enter your house.”
“Wait for us and we will come to you,” he added.
Alonto also said the local officials are getting clearance from the military to rescue the trapped civilians.
But Agakhan Sharief told the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday that he has talked to the Maute terrorists and was told that local officials can get the trapped civilians as long as they’re not accompanied by soldiers.
In Manila, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the bodies of four women, three women and a child were found on a road near the Mindanao State University in Marawi while the bodies of eight men, believed to be those of missing bakery workers, were found dumped in a shallow ravine in an outlying village of the city.
The eight men were shot in the head and some had their hands tied behind their back. A policeman said a paper sign that said “betrayed their faith” was found on one of the men. Marawi is a Muslim-dominated city.
Since the fighting started last week, the military said 97 people have died in the clashes. The fatalities included 19 civilians, 61 terrorists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, 13 soldiers and four policemen.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team said they have counted 42,142 evacuees from Marawi as of last Saturday. Of that number, 30,600 people are staying in temporary shelters while 11,500 others have opted to seek refuge with relatives outside Marawi. GAC/Expat Media
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