By Roel Pareño
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The battle for Marawi has entered the final, critcal phase, according to the military.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said eight soldiers have been killed since Aug. 2 as the final phase of military operations to flush out Maute militants began.
“As of (Tuesday) night, it is with grief that we report 122 soldiers were already killed due to the continuous fighting in the main battle area,” Petinglay said.
She stressed the troops are facing a suicidal enemy in the last stages of the campaign.
“As our soldiers advance and get closer to the main objective, anything can happen. The situation is getting more critical,” she said.
Petinglay said the troops had encountered some 70 heavily armed militants in close-quarter combat.
The military said the presence of about 50 to 70 civilian hostages is compounding the problem.
Troops rescued three civilians who were able to run away during the fighting.
Petinglay said the fighting had been confined to a square kilometer general area where the terrorists are still holed up.
She reported the troops have killed 539 militants and recovered 607 firearms since the fighting broke out on May 23.
She added civilian casualties stood at 45 with 1,728 non-combatants rescued.
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