January 23, 2018, 10:13 pm
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AFP sees end of conflict with rising Maute fatalities

THE Maute Group has had 242 fatalities since the armed conflict in Marawi City broke out last May 23, the Armed Forces said yesterday.

“The number goes to show that we are determined in pursuing our relentless operations... This figures also show that we are nearing the conclusion, quelling this rebellion in Marawi,” said AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.

The figure is 36 more than the count reported by the military last Wednesday. The number of firearms recovered from the group now stands at 243.

“It wouldn’t be long before we will be able to quell this rebellion,” said Arevalo of the conflict, without saying a deadline or timeline for clearing the city of Maute members.

The conflict which started on May 23 has also resulted in the death of 56 soldiers, three policemen, and 26 civilians. It has left at least 200 soldiers wounded while 1,636 trapped civilians have been rescued.

“We have paid a toll in our operations. Many were also killed from our side but definitely, there are more from their side... What we are saying is they (Maute Group) have been reduced significantly from their original number,” said Arevalo.

Asked how many Maute members remain in the city, Arevalo said: “We can’t give a fixed number, even estimate. It’s really difficult, but it’s clear that their strength and their pockets of resistance continue to dwindle.”

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, commander of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, last week said there were about 150 to 200 Maute members still in the city, confined in portions of four barangays.

“Our objective is for us to be able to have a decisive conclusion of this rebellion and for us to be able to neutralize the Maute-ISIS group and for us to degrade their capability to continue to pose a threat,” said Arevalo.

“We are able to confine them in the urban area... If they really intend to fight it out there in Marawi, if they want to die there, then it will be good on the part of the AFP,” Arevalo said. “(That’s) because, as our chief of staff Gen. (Eduardo) Año said, we would like to give this a decisive conclusion. So instead of running after them in different parts of the country, since they re here and their stalwarts in Marawi, then this is the best place for the AFP (to neutralize them),” he said.

On Saturday, an Army battalion was sent to Marawi, from Iloilo, to augment the troops in the city. They will be in addition to about 3,500 soldiers already deployed in the city, conducting clearing operations.

Asked if the deployment of the fresh troops is an indication that the situation is Marawi is worsening and the conflict is still far from over, Galvez just said: “Just to make sure no one can get out.” He was referring to Maute members still in the city.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the battalion, composed of around 400 men, was deployed to the city to replace soldiers who have been killed and wounded in the fighting.

“It’s a regular relieving because of our casualties. They are replacements. It’s a regular rotation because of our injured and killed soldiers,” said Padilla of the deployment of the 82nd Infantry Battalion.

Padilla said the deployment does not necessarily mean the situation in the city is worsening.

“In fact, the situation is getting better every day... We have more than 20 firearms captured and recovered and we also killed many enemies over the course of the last 24 or more hours,” said Padilla.
 
INQUEST

The Department of Justice said alleged Maute bomb maker Mohammad Noaim Maute underwent inquest proceedings in Cagayan de Oro yesterday for rebellion charges.

Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said Maute who also goes by the alias Abu Jadid underwent inquest proceeding at the headquarters of the Army 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro.

He was assisted by two lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office during the proceeding.

Balmes said an inquest would establish whether the evidence is sufficient to seek the approval of the court to keep the apprehended person in detention.

The Supreme Court has designated Cagayan de Oro regional trial courts to handle the cases against the Maute group members.

Maute was arrested by a combined police-military team in Cagayan de Oro last Thursday after his name was included in the arrest order issued by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, administrator of martial law in Mindanao, which was declared by President Duterte on May 23, the start of the attack in Marawi City.

Maute was reportedly also involved in several bombing incidents in Mindanao and the kidnapping and beheading of sawmill workers in Butig in April last year.

He is a cousin of Maute brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam, who led the attack on Marawi City last month. – With Ashzel Hachero
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