Militants fighting Government troops in Marawi in the southern Philippines were holding about 100 hostages that included a Catholic priest, the army said on Thursday even as it predicted that the crisis in the besieged city was nearing an end. Troops have “paralysed” the logistics of Islamist militants holed out in Marawi for more than two weeks, military officials said.
More than 200 militants who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist movement were still hiding in buildings and houses in three districts of Marawi City, 800 kilometres south of Manila, officials said. Troops have captured one of the militant strongholds that leads to the centre of the city, said Major General Carlito Galvez, a regional military commander. “We found food, improvised explosive devices and mobility assets.
Considering we have already paralysed the logistics capability, we are looking at possibility that the end will be near,’’ he added. Galvez said the militants were holding “more or less 100 hostages’’ including a Catholic priest. The priest is still alive, and troops were doing their best to rescue him and the other hostages, said Brigadier General Rolly Bautista, a task force commander. “The rescue of the civilians is parallel to the destruction of the local terrorist group.
“Our timetable is within four days, we will gain headway and that is June 12,’’ he said The fighting in Marawi City began on May 23 when hundreds of militants went on a rampage after government forces attempted to arrest a local Islamic State leader. More than 190 people, including 134 militants, eight of whom were foreigners, have been killed in the violence, the military said. The hostilities have also displaced more than 220,000 residents from Marawi City, government officials said.