By Roel Pareño
IS praises Marawi siege
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants in Marawi are holed up only in four barangays of the city, contrary to claims by the Islamic State (IS) that the local terror group now has control over almost the entire city, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said yesterday.
“It only comprises 20 percent of the whole of Marawi City and it’s getting smaller every day,” Galvez said, referring to the four barangays where some 150 to 200 militants and their Abu Sayyaf allies have taken defensive positions.
That is at least double the area that the military had given a week ago, when it had said the terrorists were holed up in a sliver of urban terrain equal to just 10 percent of the city and shrinking. There are 96 barangays in Marawi.
At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Eduardo Abella said the situation could have been worse had the government not acted fast enough. “The early action of the military and the government has actually preempted their plans to be able to capture the city. So we need to credit that. Yes, there were (intelligence reports) but it was something that had to be vetted and to be authorized properly,” Abella said in a press briefing.
“Were it not for the early and decisive action of the military, then it would have been worse,” he added.
Almost the entire population of about 200,000 fled after the militants tried to overrun the city, but the military believes that beyond the checkpoints now fencing off its main roads there are still some 300 to 600 civilians trapped or being held hostage.
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