MARAWI CITY – The Philippine military on Tuesday branded a propaganda the ISIS claim that its fighters still control much of the besieged city of Marawi on the southern region of Mindanao where clashes continue for third straight week.
The AMAQ news agency being run by the ISIS group said Filipino fighters are spread out in Marawi following a daring occupation on May 23 that left dozens of soldiers and militants, and civilians dead.
“Islamic State fighters are spread in more than two-thirds of Marawi and tighten the chokehold on the Philippine army that is incapable of maintaining control of the situation,” the ISIS said.
The military said with the mounting ISIS casualties estimated at over 200, it will not take long before it liberates the Islamic city from militants, mostly members of the jihadist Maute group. But it said troops are fighting an estimated 400 jihadists armed with machine guns, anti-tank rockets and automatic rifles.
The local ISIS group is being led by Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon, who has been designated Amir by the Islamic State. Two other leaders, Madie and Omar Maute, were also reported killed in the battle, but security forces are yet to find their graves and exhumed the bodies for forensic examination to determine whether the brothers had been slain.
Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, an army spokesman, said troops rescued at least 5 civilians in Marawi who told authorities that 5 others had been killed and 8 others captured by ISIS. The rescued civilians managed to escape from ISIS after they swam the river behind the house where they hid. Militants stormed the house after learning that a group of civilians was hiding there. The fate of the hostages is still unknown. (With a report from Rhoderick Beñez)
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