No premature declaration of Marawi liberation despite presence of stragglers, military says
There was no premature declaration from President Rodrigo Duterte on the liberation of war-torn Marawi City from the terrorists last month, military spokesman said on Friday.
This was despite the presence of some 36 stragglers from Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists in Marawi, added Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
"Those remaining stragglers, they are leaderless, they have no direction, they are merely fighting for survival. So they have no impact on the overall security of the place," said Padilla when asked whether Duterte seemed to be prompt in declaring Marawi free from terrorists even if the government forces were still pursuing some terrorists in the area.
Duterte declared Marawi's liberation from terrorists on October 17, a day after Maute-Daesh leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were killed.
Padilla said based from the suspected Indonesian terrorist who was recently arrested, there were still around 36 stragglers in Marawi.
"But we are still validating that number because there are about three buildings here that seem to house them. And that’s on the process of being checked," he said.
He said displaced residents from the main battle zone in the city are still not allowed to return because of the remaining threat.
"The reason why we are trying to restrict that area is to ensure that not one of these terrorists may be able to escape because one terrorist who is able to escape has the potential of inflicting harm on many nationals --- on many of our nationals," Padilla added.
He said the government wants to prevent the "lone wolf attack," similar to what happened in Manhattan, New York; Denver, Colorado; and in some areas in Europe.
"Many of these involved only one individual. And that is why we are taking all the pains," he said.
Padilla also clarified that the bags containing P300,000 cash and pieces of gold jewelry were not taken by the government troops.
But these were recovered from the terrorists, who were trying to escape, he said.
The recovered valuables were turned over to the local government, he added.
Padilla also clarified that the appliances, which the soldiers brought with them when they left Marawi were government properties.
"Those are not looted items. These are the items of the rear echelons who went there, we brought all those things," he said.
But Padilla assured that investigation has been ongoing if there were really soldiers who were involved in looting.
"So may I just clarify that the investigation is still ongoing and we will not tolerate if all these individuals are found guilty," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS