11 foreign terrorists still in Marawi, military chief says
Some 11 foreign Islamic State terrorists have remained in the warzone of Marawi City and they are the ones who have been influencing the Filipino Maute militants to fight it out until the end, military chief said on Tuesday.
"There are foreigners inside. We're monitoring more or less 11 through intelligence (reports)," said Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Eduardo Ano told reporters in an interview at the Senate in Pasay City.
The foreign terrorists include Malaysians, Indonesians and Arabs.
"Mostly are Indonesians," Ano said, noting these foreigners were the ones holding the Filipino militants "to fight it out."
He said these foreigners seemed to be telling the Filipinos "to be martyrs, we set example to their comrades in the world that here in Marawi they are able to put up a good stand and they are martyrs to be idolized, worshipped and imitated by other recruits."
The foreigners were among the "30 to 40" terrorists who are still holed up in Marawi, he said.
But he added based from "observers" from the ground, there were "children and women warriors" also in the city.
The presence of the women and children warriors is also a challenge for the government troops, he said.
"Our soldiers are thinking twice," Ano said, noting these women and children could also be hostages who were just being armed by the terrorists or they were the militants' family members.
He expressed belief Marawi would soon be cleared of terrorists, including their leader Isnilon Hapilon, whom the military believes are still inside the city contrary to reports that he was seen in Basilan province.
"We're in the final phase of our offensives," he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, during the hearing in the Senate, said they hope to clear Marawi of terrorists within the month.
Ano said the terrorists are now hiding near the pier and another mosque after the military retook over a week ago the Grand Mosque which served as their safe haven since rebellion broke out in the city on May 23.
Except for the mosque that the terrorists are now occupying, he said the government troops will "do anything needed in other area occupied by Maute-ISIS." Celerina Monte/DMS