Battle of Marawi: 3 dead, 52 hurt

Home-made bombs set back final push

THREE more government troops were killed and 52 others injured in the battle between soldiers and remnants of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists while retaking a strategic bridge in the Marawi City conflict zone Thursday, eve of the feast of Eid’l Adha.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi, said most of the casualties were inflicted by explosions of improvised explosive devices laid by the terrorists as security forces pushes hard to the last bastion of the militants currently met by the series of ground and air attacks.

“The large number of wounded may have been caused by soldiers accidentally triggering other IEDs [improvised explosive device not used by those in the military] when instinctively trying to save fellow troops previously hit by explosions,” Petinglay said.

The intense fighting at Bangolo Bridge lasted for about 12 hours that brought the total deaths to more than 800 to include civilian fatalities in 102 days of the Marawi siege.

In related developments:

• The Department of Justice has dismissed the rebellion charges against the 59 suspected recruits reportedly as reinforcement of the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City and were arrested in Zamboanga City last July.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Friday the prosecutors headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, with prosecutors Sonny Ocampo and Aris Reyes as members, issued a resolution dropping the charges filed by the military against the 59 respondents for lack of probable cause.

GUNFIRE AT BANGGOLO. Marines headed by Brig. Gen. Melquiadez Ordiales and his men patrol the Mapandi perimeter (above), days ahead of a firefight at Banggolo Bridge in Marawi City (below) where three soldiers were killed and 52 others wounded during a clash with the Maute group on the eve of Eid’l Adha in Marawi, authorities said on Friday. Five Maute fighters were also killed for the battle of the Banggolo bridge (formerly called Bayabao bridge). Mark Navales

“The DOJ will not be a part of any injustice. If in the assessment of our Panel of Prosecutors there is no basis to charge a person in court, such a finding should be respected,” Aguirre said, in a statement.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla also issued a statement, saying “We fully respect the decision and will abide by it.

“It also shows the military is fully compliant with the provisions set forth in our Constitution regarding martial law and the continued jurisdiction of our civil courts on cases we file. We are a professional organization committed to the rule of law.”

• The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan itself said there had been a growing clamor within the Australian government to expand Canberra’s military intervention in the Philippines, adding “Against these establishment calls for increased intervention, BAYAN stands with Australian activists calling for the ceasing of military aid to the Duterte administration.”

• President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday dared his “yellow” critics to give him a better way of dealing with the ongoing siege in Marawi, amid their supposed criticisms on the government’s response in ending the already hundred-day crisis there.

“These bleeding hearts, many of them act as if they knew it all. They think they can—these are the people who can never be elected. [They’re] unelectable because nobody knew if they can lead,” the President told soldiers. 

Duterte claimed that female members of the opposition Liberal Party had earlier asked him if there was a “better way of fighting the Islamic State, let alone the Maute.” 

He asked: “There’s another way of ending ISIS? How? Tell me. How do you deal with the ISIS?”

Petinglay described that the injured soldiers were in “green status,” or slightly injured, by shrapnel from the IEDs.

On the other hand, military snipers were reported to have pinned down five militants to death in frontal fighting at the Bangolo Bridge, a major road network connecting Western Marawi to the main battle area in the east, forcing the terrorists to retreat, leading to the recapturing of the bridge and nearby structures, Petinglay added.

Airstrikes were halted during the prayer times in observance of Eid’l Adha while clearing operations continued Friday.

“We are working to clear the remaining areas where the enemy is holding out,” AFP spokesman  Padilla said.

Currently, the military are still clearing 300 structures where militants remain holed out covering the 500 square meters, the remaining battle site.

With the Bangolo Bridge retaken, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana projected the looming end of the Marawi City siege.

“Yes, I’m happy to announce the end of the fighting is near,” Lorenzana said.

Aguirre stressed the 59 suspects had been ordered released by the investigating prosecutors following the dismissal of the charges.

“They did not find the military witness as credible,” Aguirre said.

Of the 59 respondents, 32 men were arrested at a checkpoint in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay while the remaining 27, of which four were minors, were arrested along Daisy Road in Guiwan, Zamboanga City. They were all arrested last July 25.

Authorities seized from the suspects military uniforms, boots and Moro National Liberation Front identification cards.

Last Aug. 14, the respondents submitted their counter-affidavit, claiming they were recruited to join the MNLF and promised a P30,000 monthly salary and would each become eventually a military integree.

They accused MNLF member Nur Supian as their recruiter. With Rey Requejo, Bill Casas, and John Paolo Bencito

Topics: Marawi City , Islamic State , terrorists , Joint Task Force Marawi , improvised explosive devices , IED
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