26 August 2017

News Story: Philippine troops make headway against pro-IS fighters in southern Philippines

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
MANILA, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Philippine government forces are continuing to advance against pro-Islamic State (IS) extremists that occupied the southern Philippines Marawi City more than three months ago as the battle continues to drive IS fighters out of the last remaining strongholds they control in the city, a military spokesman said on Friday.

"The enemy's world is getting smaller," military spokesman Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla told a news conference at the Malacanang presidential palace.

Padilla said the troops continue to contain "the main battle area to half a square kilometer grid ... We continue to clear other parts of the city and press on to the inner sanctum of the enemy," he said, adding "We're doing our best to end this crisis as soon as possible."

However, he added that "these are delicate operations that we need to do slowly. The cases of unexploded ordnance, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in every room, in every corner, are matters that put our troops in danger every minute of the day."

He said troops successfully seized on Thursday the city's biggest mosque that militants used as "safe haven" and "main staging point" in fighting government security forces. Militants used the mosque as "observation tower and sniper nest," he said, adding that civilian hostages were believed to have been kept there as human shields.

Aside from the mosque, he said the troops also recaptured this week the police station that militants occupied when they attacked the city on May 23.

He said the seizure of the mosque and the police station was "very important operational achievements" for the troops this week, paving the "road to liberation" of Marawi.

The two installations, which are located in the heart of the city, are very strategic and deemed as "symbols of authority over the city," he said.

The conflict, which broke out on May 23, has so far killed 770 people, including 129 soldiers and policemen, and wounded more than 1,000 others. The military said that nearly 600 extremists have also been killed in the conflict.

The war has also displaced an estimated 500,000 residents, the government said.

Read the full story at Xinhua