|Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)|
MANILA, Philippines - Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon is believed to be hiding with foreign terrorists in the area in Marawi City where 13 Marines were killed in a clash with the Maute militants over the weekend, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr.
He was referring to Barangay Lilod Madaya, where the Philippine Marines clashed with the Maute group last Friday from around 3:30 a.m. to around 6:30 p.m.
Padilla told radio station dzBB that foreign fighters have been in Mindanao even before the Marawi hostilities started on May 23, and suspected Hapilon’s presence in the area, which could be the reason it was highly fortified by the Maute group.
Hapilon is reportedly the emir of Islamic State (IS) terrorists in the Philippines.
The Maute group are also believed to be holding civilian hostages in the same village, the report further said.
“Sila ay napunta sa sektor na mukhang napasukan ng napakatinding depensa dahil po sa kinaroroonan na maaari ng mga hostages (They had gone to a sector that seemed to have a very strong defense because the hostages might be there),” Padilla said, referring to the Marines whose main objective was to secure the civilian hostages in the barangay.
The military official also assured they would try their best to conduct less air strikes and more ground assaults on areas still held by the terrorists in the coming days, the report said.
“Gagawin pa rin po natin iyan kung kinakailangan, pero iniiwasan po namin dahil malapitan na po ang labanan (We will resort to air strike if needed, but we are already avoiding it because the fighting is getting proximate),” he added.
As for the government’s plan to raise the Philippine flag at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol in Marawi City today, Independence Day, Padilla said it would push through despite the loss of Marines.
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