Gov’t forces closing in on Maute group remnants – AFP

MANILA---- The tide is definitely against the remaining Maute group terrorists in Marawi City as the military starts to bring more pressure against the lawless elements.

With the focusing of its combat power, more and more defense positions of the Islamist group are being neutralized, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said Monday.

The development is a welcome one as fighting in Marawi City reaches its sixth week.

"We also declared that the AFP is firm in its declaration that it is winning in this battle, as a matter of fact the victory is irreversible, it is just a matter of time before we will be able to complete our mission," Arevalo added.

"Right now the terrorist group is feeling the might of the Armed Forces and (the AFP) is closing in on their (remaining) positions," he further said.

With the shrinking of the Maute group's defensive perimeter, Arevalo said that they have been receiving reports that there is now conflict among the members and the leadership of the lawless elements due to issues of finances and waning logistical support.

"(With these development) there were some members of the Maute group/ISIS group who (have made plans to surrender and desert) but according to reports, they were executed," he added.

The military official added that with the reduction of Maute group combatants some civilian hostages are being forced to fight or carry ammunition and supplies for the terrorists with execution as an alternative for those who will refuse.

Arevalo placed the number of civilians still at the clutches of the bandits to 150 to 200 with the remaining Maute group members at 100 to 120 pocketed at four barangays in Marawi City.

As of this posting, there are 27 civilians executed by the terrorists and 70 troopers and police officers killed in the ongoing operations along with 268 Maute Group combatants neutralized since last May 23.

With this development, the AFP official said they also received reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS "Emir" in Southeast Asia, has already abandoned his companions creating a massive morale problem for the latter.

"We were told by those rescued that Isnilon Hapilon has abandoned his companion from the location, this is subject to validation process but we have received that information that (he) has already deserted his companions," he added.

"But if he has indeed left, the AFP will continue to track him and run after him," Arevalo disclosed.

Source: Philippines News Agency