By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral, Reporter

‘Two and a half’ barangays remain pockets of resistance in Marawi: AFP

Posted on July 29, 2017

THE military on Friday, July 28, said about “two and a half” barangays remain pockets of resistance in besieged Marawi City, provincial capital of Lanao del Sur, where troops are battling around 60 remaining pro-Islamic State (IS) militants.

This undated handout released by the Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) on July 28, 2017 shows Philippine marines guarding suspects, arrested for trying to reinforce Muslim militants in Marawi, prior to their transportation to Manila, at a military base in Zamboanga City on the southern island of Mindanao. WESMINCOM/AFP
The military’s report came after Congress overwhelmingly voted to extend President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s martial rule in Mindanao until yearend to defeat the band of jihadist extremists that overran the predominantly Muslim city and to dismantle the terror network in the region.

“The area of operation is confined to about two barangays, or to be exact, about two and a half barangays and confined to about less than one square kilometer,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brigadier-General Restituto F. Padilla, Jr. said in a press briefing.

At ang bilang ng mga kinakaharap natin ay pinapaniwalaan namin na nanatili sa around 60, mga ganon pa. More or less (And we believe the number of terrorists we’re still pursuing is at around 60. More or less),” he added.

Clashes between government forces and the pro-Islamic State (IS) Maute militants broke out in Marawi on May 23 -- triggering what may be the biggest internal security crisis in the Philippines since the siege of Zamboanga City by the Moro National Liberation Front in 2013.

The band of Marawi gunmen was led by brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute, who had joined forces with Isnilon Hapilon -- leader of the dreaded kidnapping-for-ransom gang Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

According to Mr. Padilla, the military believes the terrorist leaders are still inside the war-torn city given the resistance offered by the bandits.

As of July 27, security forces have neutralized 471 extremists holed up in Marawi while government casualties reached 114.

The number of civilians killed by jihadist bandits in the course of the urban warfare remains at 45, while air strikes and artillery bombings by advancing troops as well as deadly street combats have left the Marawi in ruins.

Meanwhile, in a statement released yesterday afternoon, the military said 60 “suspicious” persons were held for questioning in Zamboanga Del Sur and Zamboanga City on July 25 for “covert acts tending to reinforce” the IS-affiliated gunmen in Marawi.

“They were flown by a Philippine Air Force plane to Manila for further questioning and custody in an appropriate facility while charges are being prepared for violation of the Revised Penal Code relating to the crime of Rebellion,” it said.

A hearing at the Department of Justice was being held as of this reporting on the suspects implicated in the Marawi siege.