(Residents fleeing from Marawi City walk through a checkpoint at the entrance of Iligan on May 24, 2017. Photo credits: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Chief Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo describes the security situation in Marawi City to be under control amid massive evacuation of residents following the heavy fighting between the military and the Maute local terror group.
This he said in an interview at the AFP Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday morning.
“The situation is under control. The challenge is kung paano mababawi ang ilang mga vital installations from the local terrorist group. May mga sniper sila kaya ang mga dinadala natin ay mga special forces. Iba po ang magiging nature ng operations dito (The challenge is how to take back vital installations taken over by the local terrorist group. They have snipers so we are bringing Special Forces there. Our operations there will be different),” Arevalo said.
He said, government troops in Marawi City are fighting against about fifty (50) members of a local terrorist group.
The military has sufficient number of troops in the area.
Arevalo is careful not to identify the rebels as the terror group Maute.
Residents refer to the bandits as "ISIS."
“They are a purely local terrorist group. Hindi natin pinapangalanan (They are a purely local terrorist group. We don’t identify them.),” Arevalo maintained.
He explained the terrorists are waging a propaganda war to get the attention of the international terrorist group ISIS.
He added the local group has been trying to align themselves with the international terrorists.
Twelve from government side are wounded in the fighting in Marawi City while two soldiers were killed.
Arevalo said the battles started when the military launched an operation to get Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was reportedly in the city.
This supposedly prompted supporters of Hapilon to go to Marawi City to rescue Hapilon, before the military is able to get him.
“Gumawa sila ng mga harassment activities in other parts of Marawi para ma-distract ang attention ng ating law enforcers (they staged harassment activities to distract the attention of our law enforcers),” Arevalo said.
Mass evacuation continues in Marawi City throughout Wednesday with many residents walking on foot because the highway leading to Iligan City is already clogged with vehicles of motorists joining the exodus.